Skip to main content

Full text of "The Life of George Mason, 1725-1792"

See other formats


This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on library shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google as part of a project 

to make the world's books discoverable online. 

It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject 

to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired. Whether a book is in the public domain may vary country to country. Public domain books 

are our gateways to the past, representing a wealth of history, culture and knowledge that's often difficult to discover. 

Marks, notations and other maiginalia present in the original volume will appear in this file - a reminder of this book's long journey from the 

publisher to a library and finally to you. 

Usage guidelines 

Google is proud to partner with libraries to digitize public domain materials and make them widely accessible. Public domain books belong to the 
public and we are merely their custodians. Nevertheless, this work is expensive, so in order to keep providing tliis resource, we liave taken steps to 
prevent abuse by commercial parties, including placing technical restrictions on automated querying. 
We also ask that you: 

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for 
personal, non-commercial purposes. 

+ Refrain fivm automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort to Google's system: If you are conducting research on machine 
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the 
use of public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help. 

+ Maintain attributionTht GoogXt "watermark" you see on each file is essential for in forming people about this project and helping them find 
additional materials through Google Book Search. Please do not remove it. 

+ Keep it legal Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just 
because we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States, that the work is also in the public domain for users in other 
countries. Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of 
any specific book is allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Google Book Search means it can be used in any manner 
anywhere in the world. Copyright infringement liabili^ can be quite severe. 

About Google Book Search 

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and to make it universally accessible and useful. Google Book Search helps readers 
discover the world's books while helping authors and publishers reach new audiences. You can search through the full text of this book on the web 

at |http: //books .google .com/I 



® THE 








There is a time when men shape for their land 

Its institutions 'mid some tempest's roar. 
Just as the waves that thunder on the strand 

Shape out and round the shore. 

These rise before me ; and there Mason stands. 

The Constitution-maker, firm and bold. 
Like Bemal Diax, planting with kind hands 

Fair trees to blate in gold. 

Jamtt Barron Ho^^ ** Yorktown Ceni*nniai Ode, 





t\t limchtibockii (rm 

) < 



pfVuJJir tUaac^.. 



Blectrotypad, PrInMd, 4nd Booad by ^ 

trbe Itnlcfterbocfeev prcM, Hew Vort r\ /^ 
G. P. Putnam's Sow /\ i \ 

6 ^ Y 









Introduction v 

Author's Preface. xi 

List of Persons from whom the Author has 

ReceivedCopiesof George Mason's Letters, xiv 


I. — English and Virginian Ancestry. . . . i 

IL — The Virginia Planter. 1715-1764. ... 48 
IIL — GuNSTON Hall and its Neighborhood. 1745- 

1769-1772 84 

IV. — First Political Papers. 1764-1773. . ■ 1*3 
V. — The Fairfax County Committee of Safety. 

i773-'775 >59 

VI. — The Becinninc op the Revolution. 1775-1776. 191 
- VII, — Virginia's Declaration of Rights and Consti- 
tution. 1776 ia8 

''VIIL — Ih the Virginia Assembly. 1776-1778. 367 

IX. — Virginia and the Land Companies. 1778-1779. 30a 

X. — The Cession of Western Territory. 1779-1780. 337 

Appendix. 373 


COUNTY, 1716. 
FOR RENT, 1765. 


LONDON, 1766. 






TUTION, 1776. 


Every fact bearing upon the character and service of the 
statesmen whose genius created a model form of human 
government should receive a warm greeting from those who 
are proud of the growth, progress, and prosperity of the re- 
public. The harmonious working of the component parts 
which enter into the life of the country is to-day the result 
of the intelligent labors of a small group of men over a 
hundred years ago. Like the rays of the sun which give 
light to the world, a government which proves capable of 
maintaining the purpose for which it was established, and 
protects the liberties of its citizens, should be hailed and imi- 
tated by mankind in every clime. 

The sword of Washington carved success upon the stand- 
ards of the new republic. The pen of Jefferson declared in 
immortal phrase our independence of Great Britain. The 
young eagle was pluming for his flight among the nations 
of the globe. But how should he so adjust his vf'mgs as 
to carry with nice balance, upon pinions of freedom, the 
glorious mission of establishing a government of the people, 
to replace the power of the tyrant ? 

Among the eminent patriots of those days, whose minds 
grasped this great problem, the subject of this book stands 
out in bold relief. A most remarkable man was George 
Mason I His conception of the authority of the citizens to 
control the government, and that the government existed 
only by their will and consent, was thorough and complete. 
Vol. 1 vii 


His warning as to the exercise of undelegated powers by 
either Congress or the President was truly prophetic. He 
desired to erect a republic whose strength at the centre was 
only great enough to carry out the object for which it was 
created ; while the creator — the States themselves — should 
be left undisturbed in the exercise of all power not specified 
as having been relinquished. He had a full appreciation 
that the safety of the States was indeed the safety of the 
Union. He was the champion of the States and of the 
people. His signature, as one of the delegates from 
Virginia, was not attached to the Constitution, as it came 
from the hands of its framers in 1787, only because, in 
his opinion, that instrument did not completely guard the 
safety of the States. 

His great labors may not be as widely established in the 
public mind as those of some others of the same period, be- 
cause he persistently declined public positions in the federal 
councils, where his conspicuous talents would easily have 
kept him in the front rank of public knowledge and esteem. 
In the hearts of the students of his country's history, his 
name and fame occupy a place second to none. He was in- 
deed the people's man in a people's government. The tent 
of his faith was pitched upon the bed-rock of the freedom of 
the citizen. Great was his belief in the security of a purely 
republican form of government. Sublime was his reliance 
in the power of the people. If Madison was, as John Quincy 
Adams said, " the Father of the Constitution," to Mason we 
are certainly indebted for those features which embrace sov- 
ereignty of the States, and protect the inalienable rights of 
their inhabitants. He was at once '' the Solon and the Cato, 
the law-giver and the stern patriot, of the age " in which he 
lived. Marvellous was his wisdom, and great his intellectual 
force and breadth ; and both were exerted to form a con- 
stitution which should have, traversing its length and breadth, 
broad, clear, comprehensive lines, separating the delegated 
powers conferred on the general government from those re- 
served to the States. 


In the great battle fought by learned opponents in the 
Convention called by Virginia to ratify this Constitution, it 
will be remembered that George Mason bore a most promi- 
nent part. He believed, with a great orator of American 
liberty, that this Constitution in its first principles, was 
" highly and dangerously oligarchic " ; and that a govern- 
ment of the few is of all governments the worst. He 
insisted upon such amendments as would forever obliterate 
the " awful squint towards monarchy ** ; and so great was the 
effect of his arguments, that the wisdom of a John Marshall, 
the oratory of an Edmund Randolph, the persuasive grace of 
a Henry Lee, the logic of a Madison, supported by the great 
reserve force of Washington, could secure the ratification of 
the Constitution by Virginia, by a majority of only ten votes 
in some one hundred and sixty-eight cast ; and then only 
after nine States (the number sufficient) had already en- 
dorsed it. Among the intellectual giants composing this 
Convention, Mason was in the ranks of the opposition, 
strongly favoring specific limitations to the powers conferred 
by the Constitution upon the Legislative, Executive, and 
Judicial departments of the government. By his side was 
Patrick Henry ; and supporting these two leaders were such 
men as Benjamin Harrison, James Monroe, and William 
Grayson. Mason's power of expression, must also have 
deeply impressed his opinions upon the minds of some of 
the great leaders of that day. Madison pronounced him 
the ablest debater he had ever known; and Jefferson de- 
clared he was the wisest man of his generation. It is most 
significant, therefore, that the former in drafting the famous 
Virginia Resolutions of 1798, following the doctrines of 
Mason, laid down the principle that in case of a deliberate, 
palpable, and dangerous exercise of powers not granted 
by the Constitution, the States have the right, and are in 
duty bound, to interpose in arresting the progress of the 
evil ; while Jefferson in the Kentucky Resolutions declared 
that no State was bound to tamely submit to undelegated 
and unlimited powers by any man or body of men on 


earth. Such were the views of the Father of the Constitu- 
tion, and the author of the Declaration of Independence in 
1798, some ten years after the adoption of the Federal Con- 
stitution. That a great majority of the people of the United 
States sustained these opinions of Mason, Jefferson, and 
Madison, is manifested by the fact that, after their expres- 
sion, the two last named held for eight years, respectively, 
the office of Chief Magistrate by the people's suffrages. 

Virginia was not the only State so construing the Con- 
stitution. It will be remembered that the Massachusetts 
Legislature condemned as unconstitutional the Embargo Act 
of 1807, just as Kentucky and Virginia had, the Alien and 
Sedition laws. The government of Connecticut had recom- 
mended nullification as being within the power and author- 
ity of the State, as did South Carolina ; and we are told that 
the Hartford Convention of December 14, 18 14, which was 
attended by delegates from Connecticut, New Hampshire, 
Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Vermont, was prevented 
from recommending the secession of those States from the 
Union, only by the termination of the war with England, 
which was seriously damaging their commercial interests. 

The withdrawal of some of the States from the Union in 
1861 was in accordance with the theories of the Fathers of 
the Government, endorsed in the earlier history of the re- 
public by the great masses of the people. If success crowns 
the efforts of a people struggling for their rights and liberties, 
the world applauds; if they are unsuccessful, the world 

This life of Mason is proper and opportune. A period in 
our history has been selected, to which we ought more fre- 
quently to recur, by calling attention to the services of a 
man with whose career we should become more familiar. 
When Washington presented the Non-Importation Resolu- 
tions of 1769 to the Virginia Assembly, pledging the Virginia 
planters to purchase no slaves that should be brought into 
the country after the first of November of that year. Mason 
wrote them for him. He was the author, too, of the famous 


Non-Intercourse Resolutions, which were reaffirmed by the 
Continental Congress in October, 1774, as well as by the 
Constitution of Virginia, with its Declaration of Rights. In 
regard to this celebrated bill, a wise writer has stated that 
there was more wisdom and concentration of thought in one 
sentence of it, than in all former writings on the subject. 

We have before us the life of a patriot who labored by 
tongue and pen to erect a bulwark between Federal power 
and State rights, so strong, that the hand of an oppressor 
could never take away the liberties of the people. "The 
people should control the Government, not the Government 
the people," was his war-cry. If we strictly adhere to these 
safe principles of government, we shall discharge our whole 
duty to the republic, and make it what our forefathers in- 
tended it should be — " the glory of America, and a blessing 
to humanity." 



It had long been a cherished purpose among George 
Mason's descendants to write the memoirs of their illus- 
trious ancestor, and in several instances collections of papers 
were made with this object in view. The Hon. James Mur- 
ray Mason from the family manuscripts preserved by his 
father, Gen. John Mason, prepared a sketch of his grand- 
father which was never completed. Another grandson of 
Geoi^e Mason, as far back as 1827, contemplated writing his 
biography, but never carried out the design. This gentle- 
man's son, the late Geoi^e Mason, of Alexandria, in a fire 
which consumed his dwelling-house some years ago, lost 
many of his father's papers. Those which remained, mostly 
transcripts from the original documents, were kindly given 
by him to the present writer, who also received copies of the 
letters and papers owned by Miss Virginia Mason, daughter 
of the Hon. James Murray Mason, and copies of the manu- 
scripts owned by Mrs. St. Geoi^e Tucker Campbell, grand> 
daughter of Thomson Mason of " Hollin Hall." A copy of 
the manuscript reminiscences of Gen. John Mason was 
obtained from his daughter, the late Mrs. Gen. Samuel 
Cooper of Fairfax County, Virginia. From her own imme- 
diate family, and from other branches of the same stock, the 
descendants of George Mason's brother, Thomson Mason of 
" Raspberry Plain," additional material has been procured by 
the author, such as the Thomson wills ; the sketch of the family 
by the late Judge John Thomson Mason of Maryland ; and a 


copy of the will, with entries from the Family Bible of Thom- 
son Mason, owned by Arthur Mason Chichester, of Loudoun 
County, Virginia. All letters or other documents now in 
possession of any members of the family are classed together 
as " Mason Papers," and so designated in the foot-notes to 
this biography. 

Important data, throwing light on the family history, 
the writer owes to her more distant relatives, members 
of the Fitzhugh, Bronaugh, Mercer, and Fowke families. 
She would name gratefully, in this connection, the daugh- 
ters of the late Rev. George Fitzhugh Worthington, and 
Mr. Henry M. Fitzhugh of Baltimore ; George Carter of 
" Oatlands," Loudoun County, Virginia ; Mr. William R. 
Mercer, and Prof. James Mercer Gamett ; the late R. M. 
Conway and his brother, Mr. Moncure D. Conway, Dr. 
Dinwiddie B. Phillips, of Orange County, Virginia, the Rev. 
Douglas French Forrest, Alexander H. Robertson, Esq., of 
Baltimore, Mr. Gerard Fowke, Sidney, Ohio, and Mr. Frank 
Rede Fowke, Department of Science and Art, South Ken- 
sington, London. 

Through the courtesy of the Hon. Thomas F. Bayard, 
while Secretary of State, copies were obtained of the 
Mason letters and papers among the manuscripts of Wash- 
ington, Madison, and Jefferson in the State Department. 
For assistance in supplying her with memoranda of various 
kinds, the author acknowledges her obligations to Mr. R. A. 
Brock, of the Virginia Historical Society ; to Mr. W. G. 
Stanard, Manchester, Va. ; to Mr. William Wirt Henry ; to 
Mr. Worthington C. Ford, and Mr. Paul L. Ford ; to Mr. C. 
F. Lee, Jr., of Alexandria ; to Prof. Lyon G. Tyler, President 
of William and Mary College, Williamsburg ; to the late Dr. 
Philip Slaughter, of Virginia ; to the Rev. Samuel A. Wallis, 
rector of Pohick Church ; to the Rev. Horace E. Hayden, 
Wilkesbarre, Penn. ; to Mr. George W. Kirchwey, Albany, 
N. Y. (custodian of the Clinton papers) ; to Dr. John S. H. 
Fogg> Boston; to Dr. Joseph M. Toner, Washington, D. 
C. ; to President Gilman and other gentlemen of the Johns 


Hopkins University ; to Mrs. S. L. Gouvemeur ((or a letter 
to Mason among the Monroe papers in her possession) ; to 
Mrs. Swann, nie Alexander, of Alexandria, Va. ; and to J. 
A. Weston, London, England ; as also to the late Hon. Ly- 
man C. Draper, of Wisconsin, for a copy of his valuable essay 
on the Autograph Collections of America. And she would 
acknowledge her indebtedness for ever ready assistance and 
courtesy, to the librarians of the Historical and Feabody 
Libraries of Baltimore, the State Library of Richmond, 
Virginia, and the Congressional Libraiy in Washington. 

Baltikorb, December, 1S91. 


William R. Mercer, Doylestown, Pcnn. ; Jeremiah Colbum, 
Boston, Mass. ; William Wirt Henry, Richmond, Va.; Dr. 
John S. H. Fogg, Boston ; Charles Roberts, Philadelphia ; 
Simon Gratz, Philadelphia ; the late Dr. Robert C. Davis, 
Philadelphia ; Charles C. Jones, Augusta, Georgia , Cassius 
F. Lee, Jr., Alexandria, Va. ; Justin Winsor, Harvard Uni- 
versity (from the Lee papers, Cambridge) ; James M. Gamett, 
University of Vii^nia (from the Lee papers, U. of V.) ; Mrs. 
John R. Joyner, Berlin, Maryland (a descendant of Richard 
Henry Lee, who presented the author with an autograph 
letter) ; D. McN. Stauffer, New York ; W. D. Hixson, Mays- 
ville, Kentucky (copy of a land warrant); the late Joseph 
Homer, Warrenton, Vii^nia; J. B. Moore, of the New 
York Historical Society (Lamb papers) ; Charles P. Gree- 
nough, Boston; the late Benson J. Lossing, Dover Plains, 
New York ; F. J. Dreer, Philadelphia ; John M. Hale, Phil- 
lipsburg, Penn. ; John Boyd Thacher, Albany, N. Y, ; Stan, 
V. Henkels, of the firm of Thomas Birch's Sons, PhiladeU 
phia ; Walter R. Benjamin, New York (from whom an auto- 
graph letter was received) ; Dr. Thomas Addis Emmet, New 
York ; Fisher Howe, Jr., Boston ; the collection of the late 
Professor Leflingwell, New Haven, Conn., lately dispersed 
by auction in Boston ; and the collection of the late Con- 
way Robinson, now in possession of the Virginia Historical 


"George Muon, of Viiginla," by Judge Bland. — Nilcs' Prittrifbt and Aciff 

Ike Bevelvliim, Baltimore, iSlI. 
'-G«nrge Muon, of Virgioia," bjp John EMen Coa\t.~Nm Yarh CmUtrji 

(vrcekly paper). 1859. 
"Guniton Hall." bj ]. 2Mcn Coo}iK.— A ffklm'i jfimnial, April 4. 1874. 
*' A Sutesman of the Colonial Era," by General Richard Taflor.—A'n-fjt Amtri. 

can Revitw, Febmaiy. 1 879. 
''The Virginia Declaration of Independence— A Gronp of Virginia SUtetmen," 

by J. E. Cooke. — MagoBtu of AinerUan Hittcry, May, 1S84. 
''Geoi^ Maion," by Muon Graham ElUey, M.D. — Sotahtm Bivnuu, Aofoxt 

•nd September, 1883. 
"The Mount Vernon Conrentjon." — Tie Ptnna. MagaaiM af HisUry and 

Biegrapkj), January. 1B8S. 
-Guniton Hal). Virginia."— T"*- A'™*-^Birr, April. i8go. 

Brief biographical skelchd are lound in Hugh Dlilr Grigiby'i " ConTenlion of 

"GarlaDd'i Life of John Randolph," chap. 8. p. 3S- 
MiB. Mary Lamb's "Homes of America" (which contaim a *iew of "GnnstM 

Applelon'i " Cyclopedia of American Bi^raphy." 





In September, 1651, the last battle of the English Civil 
"War was fought and lost by the young Charles 11., whose 
father had perished on the scaffold three years previously. 
The cavaliers, in their desperate fortunes, turned their faces, 
many of them, to Vii^inia, the far-off,- faithful Dominion 
across the Atlantic. And as early as 1649, the year of the 
king's execution, one ship alone, we are told, brought over 
three hundred and thirty of his followers.' Many Virginia 
families trace their beginning in the New World to this 
period of the cavalier immigration. The ancestors of 
Washington, Madison, Monroe, Pendleton (and Jefferson 
on the maternal side) were among these royalist refugees. 
And such is the tradition concerning Col. George Mason, 
the great-grandfather of George Mason of Gunston, the 
revolutionaty patriot. According to the account preserved 
in the family, Colonel Mason commanded a troop of horse 
at the battle of Worcester, and escaping from this fatal field 
di^uised himself and was concealed by some peasants until 
an opportunity offered for him to embark to America.' A 
younger brother is said to have accompanied him to Vir- 

' " VirginU," American Commonwealth Series, J. Esten Cooke, p. 19a, 
' Copjr o( old paper of 1793, bj George Mason of " Lexington." -. 


ginia. They landed at Norfolk, and George Mason's brother^ 
William Mason, according to one version of the story, 
married and died at or near Norfolk.* George Mason " went 
up the Potomac River and settled at Accohick, near Pasby- 
tanzy, where he was buried," says the chronicle above 
quoted. Of the family of the Masons of Stratford-upon-Avon, 
Warwickshire, Colonel Mason himself is believed to have 
been born in Staffordshire and to have lived there until the 
time of his leaving England. In the Church of the Holy 
Trinity in Stratford-upon-Avon are the vault of the Mason 
family and a number of memorial tablets and monuments 
inscribed to its different members, beginning with Daniel 
Mason, who died in 1689, and closing with Thomas Mason, 
who died in 1869. " With him,** as is recorded on his tomb- 
stone, " the family of Mason of this town becomes extinct.** 
With George Mason, or about the same time, there came to 
Virginia another Staffordshire gentleman, Col. Gerard Fowke» 
of the Fowkes of Brewood Hall and Gunston, an old county 
family still represented among the English gentry. Mason 
and Fowke were doubtless neighbors and friends in Eng- 
land and the two families were to be neighbors in Virginia, 
and by a marriage in the next generation connecting them 
together. Colonel Fowke became the maternal ancestor of 
George Mason of '76. Brewood is a small and very ancient 
town eleven miles from Stafford. And in the Brewood par- 
ish was, at one time, a hamlet called Gunston. The latter 
now consists of two farm-houses, one quite modern, and 
some laborers' cottages.* The older of these farm-houses, 
the original Gunston Hall, was visited and described by the 
Hon. James M. Mason in 1865, and it was then owned by 
the Giffard family.* The Giffards of Chillington in 165 1 
were among the royalists at Worcester, and it was at their 
place " Boscobel,*' that Charles H. was concealed after his 
defeat. " Chillington,** " Boscobel,** " Brewood " and " Guns- 

* The Hon. John Y. Mason i« believed to be descended from this William 
Mason. (See " Virginia Cousins/' G. Brown Goode, p. 236.) 

• letter from the Vicar of Brewood, July, 1885. • MS. letter, 1865. 


ton '* were all in the same vicinity, and at least one scion of 
the Fowke family was in the battle of Worcester.* This 
was also a Gerard Fowke, but not the one who came to Vir- 
ginia. In Brewood Church there are a number of monuments 
to the old families of the neighborhood, the Fowkes of Bre- 
wood Hall and Gunston among others. But there are none 
of the name living in Staffordshire at this time. " Brewood 
Hall ** still stands and is the seat of some of the Monckton 
family.* The Hussey family of " Wyrley Grove," of which 
there is a description and an engraving in Shaw's '' Stafford- 
shire," are the present representatives in that county of the 
Fowkes of Brewood. According to the Virgrinia tradition, 
Col. Gerard Fowke, the founder of the family in America, 
was the sixth son of Roger Fowke of " Gunston Hall." * The 
English pedigrees place this Gerard Fowke in " Port Mary- 
land," Island of Tobago, and trace his descent back to 
William Fowke of Staffordshire, 1403-1438, whose second 
son, John, married Agones, daughter and heiress of John 
Newman of Gunston, and was known, in right of his wife, as 
John Fowke of Gunston.* It is to be regretted that no list 
of the royalists who fought at Worcester has been pre- 
served, though there is a list of nearly all the prisoners taken 
above the rank of private, in the British Museum collec- 
tions.* The family tradition that Col. George Mason was a 
member of Parliament seems to be without foundation, as 
his name is not in the published records.' In the second 
Parliament of Charles I., 1625, a William Mason represented 
Aldborough, Suffolk, while in the Parliament of 1628, Rob- 
ert Mason represented Winchester, Southampton County. 
He it was, evidently, who in the debate on the Petition of 
Right " in a long and able speech," writes Creasy,' contended 

Calendar of State Papers, November, 1663. 

Murray's " Hand-Book for Stafford." 

Old MS. of the Fowke family in Virginia. 

Data famished by Frank Rede Fowke. 

Notes and Queries ^ January 17, 1885. 

" Notitiae Parliamentarian*' Browne Willis. 

" Rise and Progress of the English Constitution," p. 358. 


against extending the king's prerogative, as likely to endan- 
ger the liberties of the people. This was, in all probability, 
the same Robert Mason who was Master of the Requests 
to Charles I., and Chancellor of the Diocese of Winchester. 
A portrait of him was on sale some three years ago at a 
London auction. It would be interesting, if it were possi- 
ble, to trace a relationship between this champion of liberty 
in England's Parliament, and the Virgrinia family, whose most 
distinguished representative was to formulate in the New 
World a later and more decided Petition of Right, carrying 
out the same principles. 

Among the adventurers in the London Company, 1609, is 
found the name of " Captain Mason," and in 1620, " George 
Mason,'* doubtless the same person, is an adventurer to the 
extent of twelve pounds ten shillings.' The identity in the 
Christian name, which will be seen to descend in Virginia 
from father to son down to the present day, and the interest 
in the colony that would naturally have been transmitted 
from the sire of 1620 to the son of 165 1, make it seem not 
unlikely that the George Mason of the Virginia Company 
was the father of the cavalier emigrant.* 

The first mention of George Mason, the founder of the 
Virginia family, in the colonial records, occurs in the patent 
of land obtained by him in March, 1655, ''said land being 
due unto the said George Mason by and for the transporta- 
tion of eighteen persons into this colony." ' The names of 
these eighteen persons, " Head Rights," as they were called, 
are not given, and it is not known, therefore, whether they 
included any of Captain Mason's family. This tract of nine 
hundred acres, fifty acres for each one of those who were 
brought over at Captain Mason's expense, was in Northum- 
berland County, or, more properly, Westmoreland, which 

* Smith's '* History of Virginia," p. 52 ; Force, vol. iii., tract v. 

* Mr. Alexander Brown in ** The Genesis of the United States, "gives George 
Mason as one of the leading men interested in the American enterprise during 
1606-16. He thinks ** Captain Mason" was Capt. John Mason, the founder 
of New Hampshire. 

* Westmoreland Court-House and Virginia Land Registry Office. 


was cut off from the former county in 1653, and extended 
northward " to the falls of the great river Pawtomake, above 
the Necostin's towne." ' In other words, Westmoreland 
County included the land on the Virginia side of the river 
from the northern boundary of Northumberland County as 
far up as the site of the present city of Georgetown in the 
District of Columbia. 

The patent provides " that if said Captain George Mason, 
his heirs and assigns, doe not plant or seat or cause to be 
planted or seated upon the said land within three years 
ensuing, that then it shall and may be lawful for any ad- 
venturer or planter to make choice and seat thereon." In 
1658, Captain Mason disposed of five hundred acres of this 
land to Mr. John Leare for " five cows with calves and two 
thousand five hundred pounds of tobacco.*' In this trans- 
action " Gerrard Fowke " is Leare's attorney.* With the 
land sold to Mr. Leare George Mason transferred " all privi- 
leges of hawking, fishing, and fowling." We can fancy 
Captain Mason at this time fairly established in his settle- 
ment in the wilderness, with some of his old comrades near 
him, Colonel Fowke and Sir Thomas Lunsford, the latter 
on the Rappahannock on the other side of the Northern 
Neck, among them. These, with Capt. Giles Brent, who had 
moved from Maryland to Virginia some years previously, 
made up a group of stout borderers and gallant gentlemen. 
Captain Mason was a married man at this time, as we know 
through the mention of his wife Mary, who gives her con- 
sent to the sale of land in 1658. Whether his family fol- 
lowed him from England, or his marriage took place after his 
settlement in Virginia, we have no means of knowing. But 
he must have been a young man in all probability as he 
is seen to be active in the colony at a much later period, 
and he led now necessarily a rough and adventurous life, be- 
ing called on frequently with his neighbors to defend his 
frontier home against the unruly aborigines. Meanwhile the 

' Act of Assembly, July, 1653. 

* Westmoreland Coort-IIouse Records. 


days of the English Commonwealth came to an end, and in 
1660 the hearts of all good cavaliers rejoiced over the resto- 
ration of church and king. 

Sir William Berkeley, who had lived quietly in Virginia 
all this time, returned to his place as governor, and all 
seemed to promise well for the " Old Dominion." But 
though battle and bloodshed were well over in England, 
in Virginia there were enemies at the planters' doors, not to 
be dealt with always after the slow methods of civilized 
communities. Some of the Indians were friendly, but over 
others it was necessary to exercise a strict supervision. And 
the dwellers on the borders, especially, were subject to fre- 
quent alarms and forced to take justice into their own hands. 
So we find our friends on the Potomac having their own 
private feud with the Indian chief here, and the House of 
Burgesses not approving of their proceedings. At their ses- 
sion, 1661-2, a charge of high treason and murder was 
brought by Capt. Giles Brent against the king of the Po- 
tomac Indians. He was acquitted by the committee, and it 
was ordered by the Assembly, upon the report of the com- 
mittee to inquire into the differences between the English 
and the Indians : 'VThat in satisfaction of the several injuries 
and affronts done to Wahanganoche, King of the Potowmack 
Indians, by Capt. Giles Brent, Col. Gerard Fowke, Mr. John 
Lord, and Capt. George Mason that the said Capt. Brent 
pay the said Wahanganoche two hundred arms length of 
roanoke, and that Col. Fowke, Mr. Lord, and Capt. Mason 
pay him one hundred arms length apiece, or that they 
pay and deliver him presently matchcoates for the said 
roanoke of two arms length each, at twenty arms length 
every coate.'* * At the same time Colonel Fowke was fined 
for permitting the murderer of an Indian to escape; and 
Captain Brent and Colonel Fowke were fined and declared 
incapable of holding any office and compelled to give se- 
curity for good behavior, for illegally imprisoning the " King 
of Potowmack," Captain Brent to pay the whole charge of 

»Hening*s ••Statutes." vol. ii., i66i-2. 


the witnesses. Furthermore, John Lord and Capt. George 
Mason were ordered to " pay to the public two thousand 
pounds of tobacco apiece for their contempt of the right 
honorable governor's warrant, unless they show cause to 
the contrary at next quarter court ; that they be both sus- 
pended from all civil and military power till they have 
cleared themselves from the King of Potowmack*s charge 
against them and give bond with good security to such per- 
son as the honorable governor shall appoint for their good 
behavior towards the said King, his and all other Indians.'* 
But the Assembly confessed that with Brent, Fowke, Mason, 
and Lord deprived of office there was no one in Westmoreland 
County able to conduct its affairs, and they proposed to join 
it to Northumberland County, or else ask the governor to 
send some persons there " capable and fit " to govern it.' In 
April, 1664, Captain Mason is found to be buying more land, 
six hundred and fifty acres in Westmoreland County, from 
Col. Valentine Peyton, for which he paid " a valuable consid- 
eration '* but the sum is not named.* At the General Court 
in October, 1669, George Mason petitioned for and obtained 
five hundred additional acres, part of the same tract, which 
had been deserted by the original patentee. 

About this time the Dutch, Lord Baltimore, and the 
Indians were all giving the Old Dominion some trouble. So 
the Grand Assembly proclaimed a fast on account of the dis- 
turbed state of the country, and furthermore voted for five 
forts, one of which was to be on the Potomac. Now then 
were the proscribed soldier-planters to come again into 
the public service. George Mason appears to have held the 
office of sheriff of Stafford County in 1670, and is called 
in the MS. records of the General Court for that year. Major 
George Mason." The sheriff was the executive officer of 
the county court. The judges in this court were called Jus- 

^ JHd, 

* Westmoreland Court-House Records. 

• " Virginia Carolorum," p. 344 (note). (From a MS. owned by the Virginia 
Historical Society.) 


tices of the Peace, and they had almost entire control of the 
affairs of the county. They were chosen from the principal 
gentlemen of the neighborhood and received their commis- 
sions from the governor with the advice of the council. They 
received no compensation for their services, the office being 
considered one of honor not of emolument, and thus a high 
standard was obtained. In 1673, and perhaps earlier, George 
Mason was clerk of the court of Stafford County.' The Staf- 
ford county records are so incomplete it is impossible to de- 
termine when the appointment was made, or how long any 
of these appointments continued. Both offices were held 
by the second George Mason many years later. Some time 
between 1673 and 1675 apparently. Captain Mason received 
the highest office in the county of Stafford, that of its 
County Lieutenant. Stafford was cut off from Westmore- 
land probably in 1666-7, when it is first mentioned as send- 
ing a delegate to the Assembly. A tradition in the Mason 
family, found in the old paper before quoted, asserts that 
George Mason gave the county its name, calling it after his 
native shire in England. The County Lieutenant in the 
early records is called " Commander of Plantations." The 
office, which in England was held generally by a knight, 
was conferred always in Virginia on the class of "gentle- 
men," and they were chosen usually from the large land- 
holders. The County Lieutenant commanded the militia 
with the rank of colonel, was entitled to a seat in the coun- 
cil, and as such was a judge of the General Court, was ap- 
pointed directly by the governor, and was the possessor 
of very large powers in the civil and military control of the 
county. He presided over the county courts at the head of 
the justices. The MS. records of the General Court, of 
which only two fragments now remain, for this period, show 
Col. George Mason to have been successful in a suit in which 
he was the defendant in March, 1675-6, upon an appeal from 

' Old deed in the Brent family. 

In the interesting '* Memorials of Old Virginia Clerks," F. Johnston, none 
are given for Stafford previous to the Revolution. 


Stafford County court. The decision of the Stafford court 
was confirmed, but the amount of damages does nof appear.* 
In this same month, March, 1675, Colonel Mason's name 
appears in an act of Assembly, in connection with the de- 
fence of the country against the Indians. Lieut.^CoI. John 
Washington is named among the commissioners appointed 
for Westmoreland. And the act specifies that " Col. George 
Mason and Mr. James Austin or one of them in Stafford 
county be further commissionated when occasion shall be to 
use Indians in the war, and require and receive hostages 
from them, also to provide one hundred yards of trading 
cloth to each respective fort, that it be ready to reward the 
service of Indians as hereafter in and by this act shall be 
provided." * And then we learn of a special service of Colo- 
nel Mason's by which he had taken the lead in the negotia- 
tions with the friendly Indians. The act continues : 

" And whereas Coll. George Mason exhibited to this Grand 
Assembly a certain agreement by him made with certain Indians, 
vizt. : that the young men shall go in search of all murderers and 
all other Indian enemies to the English to be paid three match- 
coates for every prisoner they bring in alive, and one matchcoate 
for the head of every one they kill ; Bee it enacted by the 
authority aforesaid, that the said agreement shall be well and 
truly observed on our parts, and that those commissioners, here- 
before in this act named to take hostages may make the like 
agreement (if they can) with all other the neighboring Indians." 

We have now arrived at an important period in Virginia's 
colonial history, when occurs the episode of Bacon's Rebel- 
lion in 1676, the prototype in parvooi the later" Rebellion " 
of 1776. There are several contemporary accounts of this 
affair, and one of them is particularly interesting in itself, 
and is furthermore valuable for our purpose, as it makes 
mention of Col. George Mason. This is the paper signed 
" T. M.," which was written by a colleague of Colonel Mason 

' MS. owned by the Virginia Historical Society. 
* Hening's ** Sututes/' vol. ii. 



in the Assembly.* " My dwelling-house/* he says, " was in 
Northumberland, the lowest county on the Potomack river, 
Stafford being the upmost." Here also in Stafford " T. M." 
had a plantation, with servants and cattle, and his overseer 
had engaged for him in this county a herdsman who was 
killed a short time after by the Doegs, an Indian tribe in the 
vicinity. " From this Englishman's blood did (by degrees) 
arise Bacon's Rebellion," as our narrator explains. 

'* Of this horrid action Col. Mason who commanded the 
militia regiment of foot and Capt. Brent the troop of horse 
in that county (both dwelling six or eight miles downwards), 
having speedy notice raised 30 or more men and pursued 
those Indians 20 miles up and 4 miles over that river [the 
Potomac] into Maryland, where landing at dawn of day they 
found two small paths. Each leader with his party took 
a separate path and in less than a furlong either found a cabin, 
which they (silently) surrounded. Capt. Brent went to the 
Doegs cabin (as it proved to be) who speaking the Indian 
tongue called to have a ' matchacomichaweeokio,' /. ^., a council, 
called presently, such being the usual manner with Indians. The 
king came trembling forth, and would have fled when Capt. 
Brent catching hold of his twisted lock (which was all the hair 
he wore) told him he was come for the murderer of Robert Hen. 
The King pleaded ignorance and slipt loose, whom Brent shot 
dead with his pistol. The Indians shot two or three guns out of 
the cabin, the English shot into it, the Indians thronged out of 
the door and fled. The English shot as many as they could so 
that they killed ten, as Capt. Brent told me, and brought away 
the King's son of about 8 years old, concerning whom is an ob- 
servable passage at the end of this expedition. The noise of this 
shooting awakened the Indians in the cabin which Col. Ma^on 
had encompassed, who likewise rushed out and fled, of whom his 
company (supposing from that noise of shooting Brent's party to 
be engaged) shot (as the Colonel informed me) 14, before an In- 
dian came who with both hands shook him (friendly) by one 
arm, saying ' Susquehanoughs netoughs,' 1. e.^ ' Susquehanaugh 

» Force's ** Tracts," vol. i., tract viii. 


friends,' and fled. Whereupon he (Col. Mason) ran amongst his 
men, crying out, < For the Lord's sake, shoot no more ; these are 
our friends, the Susquehanaughs.' This unhappy scene ended ; 
Col. Mason took the King of the Doegs son home with him, who 
lay ten days in bed as one dead, with eyes and mouth shut, no 
breath discovered, but his body continuing warm, they believed 
him yet alive. The aforenamed Capt. Brent (a papist) coming 
thither on a visit, and seeing his little prisoner thus languishing, 
said, ' perhaps he is paweward^ i. ^., bewitched, and that he had 
heard baptism was an effectual remedy against witchcraft, where- 
fore advised to baptise him. Col. Mason answered no minister 
could be had in many miles ; Brent replied, ' your clerk, Mr. 
Dobson, may do that office,' which was done by the Church of 
England liturgy, Col. Mason with Capt. Brent godfathers, and 
Mrs. Mason godmother, my overseer Mr. Pimet being present, 
from whom I first heard it, and which all the other persons (after- 
wards) affirmed to me. The four men returned to drinking 
punch, but Mrs. Mason staying looking on the child, it opened 
the eyes, and breathed, whereat she ran for a cordial, which he 
took from a spoon, gaping for more, and so (by degrees) recov- 
ered, tho' before his baptism they had often tried the same means 
but could not by no endeavours wrench open his teeth." ' 

This little incident puts very vivedly before us the man- 
ners of the time, with its odd combination of piety and 
superstition. The whole scene stands out distinctly from 
its seventeenth century background in the Virginia wilder- 
ness; the small Indian prisoner, unconscious on his couch, 
the stem and resolute, but kindhearted planter-soldiers, seek- 
ing to restore their young captive from his uncanny trance 
by the use of the church's sacrament. Then the men going 
back to their punch and their discourse over the late bloody 
affair, while the lady of the house bends over the child with 
anxious womanly ministrations, assisting the miraculous re- 
covery by her timely watch. 

This expedition of Colonel Mason's and Capt. George 
Brent's proved indeed, as has been said, to be the occasion of 

» md. 


the Indian war that soon disturbed the colony. Colonel 
Mason, by his unfortunate mistake in attacking the friendly 
Susquehannocks, incited them to acts of retaliation. The 
murders that were committed soon after both in Maryland 
and Virginia were attributed to this tribe, and the Marylanders 
determined to rid themselves of such dangerous neighbors. 
They invited the Virginians to co-operate with them, and 
Col. John Washington, Col. George Mason, and Major 
Allerton commanded the body of Virginia militia that was 
sent over to Maryland for this purpose. The Indians in 
their strong fort, built for the protection of the frontier, held 
out for six weeks, and then, under cover of the night, 
marched out, murdering the sleeping guards, and making 
their way across the Potomac, devastated the country in 
their path as far as the York and James rivers. They had 
met with a cruel provocation, it must be admitted, for six of 
their chiefs had been put to death by the Marylanders and 
Virgfinians in retaliation for murders they were accused of 
committing. No doubt it was difficult for these early colo- 
nists, who had so often suffered from Indian treachery and 
barbarity, to extend to their foes the laws which govern 
warfare between civilized races. But the Maryland Assem- 
bly condemned this action of their militia, and not without 
reason. In the Indian warfare which followed the massacres 
perpetrated to avenge the Susquehannock chiefs. Bacon, 
whose overseer was one of the victims, took a sweeping 
revenge. Under his command the Virginians were com- 
pletely successful against the allied Indians, and the brave 
Susquehannocks themselves were almost annihilated.' 

This affair of the fort occurred in September and October, 
1675, and in the following spring Colonel Mason was elected 
to the Assembly from Stafford County. Of this Assembly 
"T. M." also gives some account. " In March, 1675-6," he 
writes, "writs came up to Stafford to choose their two 
members for an Assembly to meet in May ; when Col. 
Mason, Capt. Brent, and other gentlemen of that county, 

' Historical Maganm^ vol. i., p. 65, '* The Fall of the Susquehannocks." 


invited me to stand a candidate — a matter I little dreampt 
of. . . . They pressed several cogent arguments, and I 
having considerable debts in that county, besides my plan- 
tation concerns, (in one and the other) I had much more 
severely suffered, than any of themselves, by the Indian 
disturbances in the summer and winter foregoing, I held it 
not (then) discreet to disoblige the rulers of it ; so Col. 
Mason, with myself, were elected without objection. He at 
time convenient went on horseback ; I took my sloop, and 
the morning I arrived to Jamestown, after a week's voyage, 
was welcomed with the strange acclamations of * All *s over — 
Bacon is taken,' having not heard at home these Southern 
commotions, other than rumors like idle tales of one Bacon 
risen up in rebellion, nobody knew for what, concerning the 
Indians." Bacon, however, not satisfied with Governor 
Berkeley's fair promises, soon after made his escape and 
next appeared in the capitol at the head of his armed fol- 
lowers. Bacon demanded a commission from the Assembly 
as general of the forces, which they replied they had not the 
power to give him. It being rumored later that Governor 
Berkeley had bestowed upon him the coveted command, 
** T. M." visited Bacon to consult with him on the interests 
of the frontier counties. He assured " T. M." that " the like 
care should be taken of the remotest comers in the land as 
of his own dwelling-house." Bacon then wished to know 
"what persons in those parts were most fit to bear com- 
mands." " T. M." gives it as his opinion that the command- 
ers of the militia should be appointed, *' wherewith he was 
well pleased, and himself wrote a list of those nominated. 
That evening I made known what had past with Mr. Bacon 
to my colleague, Col. Mason (whose bottle attendance 
doubled my task) ; the matter he liked well, but questioned 
the governor's approbation of it. I confess the case required 
sedate thoughts, reasoning that he and such like gentlemen 
must either command or be commanded, and if on their 
denials Mr. Bacon should take distaste, and be constrained 
to appoint commanders out of the rabble, the governor him- 


self, with the persons and estates of all in the land, would 
be at their dispose, whereby their own ruin might be owing 
to themselves. In this he [Colonel Mason] agreed, and said : 
' If the governor would give his own commission he would be 
content to serve under General Bacon (as now he began to 
be entitled), but first would consult other gentlemen in the 
same circumstances,' who all concurred 't was the most safe 
barrier in view against pernicious designs, if such should be 
put in practise. With this I acquainted Mr. Lawrence, who 
went (rejoicing) to Mr. Bacon with the good tidings that the 
militia commanders were inclined to serve under him as 
their general, in case the governor would please to give 
them his own commissions."' "T. M.*s** disrespectful allu- 
sion to his colleague in the above extract may be taken, 
^xohMiy ^ cum grano salis ; though hard drinking was char- 
acteristic of the times, and we have not forgotten the bowl 
of punch at the baptism. " T. M.,** who has been identified 
by recent historians with Thomas Matthews, son of one of 
the Commonwealth governors, evidently wished to take all 
the credit to himself for sobriety and attention to business at 
the expense of his deceased colleague, for Colonel Mason was 
not living at the time this tract was written. But the latter 
was too important a figure in his county, by ** T. M.'s " own 
showing, for him to have been other than the habitually 
cool, clear-headed man of affairs that his several public trusts 

The Assembly of 1676 has been called Bacon's Assembly, 
as he is seen to have inspired its proceedings. It was Bacon 
against Berkeley in the legislative halls as in the armed field. 
Berkeley's Assembly, as it might be called, had lasted six- 
teen years, there having been no election of burgesses since 
1660, the year of the Restoration. Col. George Mason, it is 
noteworthy, was one of the new assemblymen in this the 
reforming House of 1676. Not much was really accom- 
plished, but the burgesses made protest against abuses, 
anticipating in their '' rebellious " designs the Assembly of 

* Force's " Tracts/' vol. i., tract viii. 


1776, where a greater George Mason was also prominent. 
" T. M. *' tells how when directed by Berkeley to consider 
Indian affairs they took the " opportunity to endeavor the 
redressing several grievances the country was then laboring 
under; and motions were made for inspecting the public 
revenues, the collector's accounts, etc." The governor in- 
terfered and these projects were not carried out. Another 
demonstration was made in the same direction when the 
Baconians demurred to the motion made by one of the gov- 
ernor's party, that two members of the council should be 
asked to sit with them and assist in their debates as had 
been usual. One of the burgesses raised a laugh by re- 
plying : " 'T is true it has been customary, but if we have 
any bad customs among us we are come here to mend 'em." 
Little was done, however, beyond passing a law to extend 
the suffrage, and evincing the wish to go further had they 
felt themselves strong enough. But it was a time of public 
commotions, and civil war was at their doors. Soon the in- 
dignant young General Bacon left the Assembly in disgust 
and Governor Berkeley declared war against him and his 

Colonel Mason is heard of again in connection with Indian 
affairs in 1679, when the Assembly ordered four garrison 
houses for stores to be built on the four great rivers. Maj. 
Isaac Allerton, Col. St. Leger Codd, and Col. George Mason 
were the gentlemen appointed to provide for the storehouse 
on the Potomac' In 1681 and 1683, Colonel Mason's name 
occurs in the letters of William Fitzhugh in connection with 
certain lawsuits.' In the latter year Fitzhugh writes to an 
English correspondent: ''All affairs stand just as you left 
them. . . . Neither have I heard any fighting news 
lately of Col. Mason, which gives me occasion to believe 
his stock is pretty well exhausted." Colonel Mason's repu- 
tation as a '' fighting " man was not confined to Indian war- 

> Hening's " SUtutes/' vol. it. 

* Fitzhugh Letters, Virginia Historical Society. (The original MS. is at 
Harvard University.) 


fare apparently, if we have interpreted correctly the above 
allusion. His name is met with again, and for the last time, 
in the acts of the Assembly in 1684. At the April session 
it was provided that when the militia were to be called out, 
" for the more easy and expeditious performing of any sen 
vices hereby injoyned, or to be injoyned to the officers 
and soldiers aforesaid, be it enacted, that there be deposited 
into the hands of Collonel George Mason [and three other 
gentlemen who are named] the sum of 1200 pounds of 
tobacco each. To the end the said Col. Mason etc. shall 
each of them buy, build or provide an able boat for the 
transporting the soldiers and horses over the several rivers 
and places hereafter mentioned." ' Colonel Mason was to 
provide a boat for the Occoquan River in Stafford County. 
This river is now the dividing line between Fairfax and 
Prince William counties. 

Colonel Mason's death occurred probably in 1686. A will 
of this date, believed to have been his, was at Stafford Court- 
House in 1840, and doubtless was there also in 186 1. It was, it 
may be presumed, either carried away or destroyed, with other 
valuable papers, at the sack of Stafford Court-House by 
Federal soldiers in 1862. Unfortunately no copy of it is 
extant. The tomb of Colonel Mason in the family " Bury- 
ing Place," at Accokeek, and all traces of the graveyard itself 
had disappeared as far back as 184$. 

In the Fitzhugh Letters mention is made of both '' Captain 
Mason '* and " Colonel Mason." And George Fitzhugh, the 
antiquarian, seems to take for granted that the allusions all 
point to the elder George Mason, whom he describes as " a 
justice of the peace, a commander of one of the forts, a 
great Indian fighter, always a favorite with the people, and 
under the government of William and Mary, which was 
somewhat republican, a favorite with the court." ' The first 
Colonel Mason is here confounded with his son, who bore the 
same name and succeeded to the same county offices and 

« Hcning's ** SUtutes." vol. iii. 

* De Baw*s Review^ vol. xxvii. and vol. xxx. Articles by George Fitzhugh. 


titles. Both were " great Indian fighters ** and men of mark 
in the community, and while Colonel Mason, the elder, was 
a true cavalier, he appears to have inclined to the popu- 
lar side in the contest between Berkeley and Bacon. The 
second George Mason proved himself a decided whig, as we 
learn from the correspondence of the zealous tory Colonel 

Lord Howard of Efiingham had made himself very un- 
popular in Virginia, in advancing the bigoted views of James 
II. And when the Revolution of 1688 took place, while 
the council leaned to the Stuart cause and supported the 
governor, the Assembly welcomed the accession of the new 
dynasty. Great excitement prevailed and it was said in 
Virginia that the " papists " in Maryland were going to 
bring in Indians to destroy " the Protestants of both Do- 
minions." In the Maryland Council pains were taken to 
contradict those extravagant rumors, raised, as was report- 
ed, " by Mr. Burr Harris [son] of Virginia and several evil 
disposed persons to this [the Maryland] government." ' 
Colonel Spencer, Colonel Lee, and Colonel Allerton of the 
Virginia Council exerted themselves successfully in the 
effort to allay the excitement. Captain Brent, as a Roman 
Catholic, was an object of persecution by the more ignorant 
and fanatical of his neighbors in Stafford County, the seat of 
the disturbances, and he was advised to take refuge from the 
mob at *' Mr. Fitzhugh's or Captain Mason's." In the con- 
flict between whig and tory in Stafford County, the leader 
of the whigs was the Rev. John Waugh, a non-conformist 
clergyman. Crowds flocked to his eloquent ministry and 
his denunciations of the government of Lord Howard and 
his royal master inflamed the people, and produced disturb- 
ances of the peace approaching to a rebellion.* Three of 
the councillors were sent to Stafford, Spencer, Lee, and 
Allerton, to quiet the county. Colonel Fitzhugh asso- 

> Archives of Maryland. Proceedings of the Council, 1687-8-1693. (Mary- 
land Historical Society, 1890.) 
• Burk's •• History of Virginia." vol. ii.. p. 305. 



dates George Mason with the Rev. Mr. Waugh in his 
denunciations of the latter. He wrote from Jamestown 
to his brother-in-law, Mr. Luke, then in England, on the 
27th of October, 1690, and betrays a very sore feeling against 
these gentlemen, who had evidently found favor in high 
places for their political principles, whatever penalties it had 
been thought necessary to prescribe in the first instance 
against the over-zealous clerical partisan. '' The conclusion 
of Parson Waugh's business is," writes Fitzhugh, ** he has 
made a public and humble acknowledgment in the general 
court, by a set form drawn up by the court and ordered 
there to be recorded ; and is appointed to do the same in 
our court, as soon as I come home, with a hearty penitence 
for his former faults and a promised obedience for the future, 
which he sincerely prays for the accomplishment of, and for 
the sake of his coat I do too. ... I stood in the gap 
and kept off an approaching rebellion (Waugh's), to my no 
small charge and trouble, as you fully know, being sending 
almost every day for five months together, and writing with 
mine own hand above three quires of paper to quash the 
raised stories and settle the panic fears ; having my house 
most part of the time constantly thronged, and in daily 
expectation of being treacherously murdered ; for all which 
charge and trouble I being out, as you know, above £2^ 
sterling, particularly for messengers sent severally up and 
down, besides the purchasing the powder and shot for our 
men in arms ; for all which I thought at least I deserved 
thanks, if no retaliation, but, thank God, I have missed them 
both, and can do it with cheerfulness too ; but to be disre- 
garded, nay, and slighted too, and to see those mischievous, 
active instruments, as you well know Waugh and Mason, 
. . . the only men in favor and the only men taken 
notice of, grates harder than the non-payment for shot and 
other disbursements. I thought good to intimate this to 
you, that you may give my Lord [Howard] a particular 
account of that whole affair wherein his Lordship, as you 
know from these persons [Waugh, Mason, etc.] missed not 


his share of the scandal, . . . and fully set forth the 
wickedness of Waugh and Mason, . . . the at present 
grand favorites, but I hope, upon his Lordship's arrival, the 
scene of affairs may be changed." ' It is evident that the 
tories were down at this time and the whigs uppermost. 
And in Stafford the leaders of the late "rebellion" were 
enjoying the favor of the new government. Waugh and 
Mason were, no doubt, among those who signed the " asso- 
ciation " for the defence of King William after the Jacobite 
plot of Barclay's in 1696.* Virginia and New York were the 
only two colonies, apparently, that testified their loyalty in 
this way. The Rev. John Waugh (or Wough, as the name 
is spelt in the old record) had charge of two churches in 
1680, Stafford Parish and Chontanck [Chotank].* And in 
1691 he patented six thousand, three hundred and fifty acres 
of land in Stafford. His friend, George Mason, became his 
son-in-law, as will be seen later. 

Colonel Fitzhugh had been engaged in lawsuits with 
Colonel Mason which apparently descended to the son, and 
may have helped to embitter the political animosity which 
subsisted between Fitzhugh and the younger Mason. The 
former wrote to George Luke in regard to one of these suits : 
"Mason's business appeared with such a report from the 
referees Allerton and Lee (back friends to us both as this 
court then found) that there was neither word nor argument 
to be used. When I see you I shall be more full." * This 
Lee was Col. Richard Lee of the council, whose daughter 
Mary was to marry the younger William Fitzhugh. Colonel 
Fitzhugh seems to have considered Colonel Lee a "back 
friend " and Captain Mason an open enemy at this time. But 
these legal animosities, not less than the political ones, were 
apparently assuaged subsequently. At least the unfriendli- 
ness between these neighbor families gave place in the next 

' Fitzhugh Letters, Virginia Historical Society. 

* The London GautU^ August 27, 1696. 

* Colonial Records of Virginia. 

^ Fitzhugh Letters, Virginia Historical Society. 


generation to the amenities of kinship. At a court held 
for Stafford County on the 9th of October, 1689, Lieut.-Col. 
Fitzhugh and Capt. George Mason head the list of justices. 
On this occasion George Brent laid before the court the case 
of a disputed patent which he had surveyed '* in obedience 
to an order of the worshipful court of Stafford." ' In 1691 
the town of Marlboro', on Potomac Neck was appointed to 
be laid off by act of Assembly, on fifty acres of land surveyed 
by Theodorick Bland. The first " feoffees " of the town 
granted thirty of the ninety odd lots into which the town 
was divided to different persons, of whom Captain Mason was 
one, the deeds conveying these lots to him being dated Feb- 
ruary, 1691-2." Captain Mason's plantation, inherited from 
his father, it will be remembered, was in this same neck of 
land in Stafford County. There is reason to believe, how- 
ever, that Captain Mason was not living at "Aquaceek," 
which may have been occupied by his mother or other mem- 
bers of the family, if, as is probable, he had brothers and 
sisters ; and that he had fixed his residence near '' Pohike " 
Creek, or Pohick as it is called at the present day, in Dogue 
Neck, much nearer the northern boundary of the county. 
Such, at least, is the inference to be drawn from the notices 
of him in the quaint journal kept by one of the Potomac 
Rangers in 1692. These rangers were appointed by the 
governor for frontier duty, and according to one of the acts 
of the Assembly regulating this service, a lieutenant or com- 
mander of rangers was to have under him eleven men with 
horses, arms, etc.* These men were to reside as near as 
might be to the station, and the County Lieutenant, as 
commander-in-chief of the county militia, was empowered 
to impress men for rangers. George Mason seems to have 
been one of the Stafford rangers, deriving his military title, 
as is likely, from this service. The paper alluded to is dated 
October 31, 1692. 

* Mercer Land Book. 

• Ibid. 

» Hening's " Sututes." vol. ii. 


"A Journiall of our Ranging, Given by me David Strahan, 
Lieutenant of yc Rangers of Pottomack. June 9*^ . . June, 
the 17*^ ; We ranged over Ackoquane, and so we Ranged Round 
persi-Neck and ther we lay that night. And on ye 18*^ came to 
Pohike, and ther we heard that Capt. Mason's Servt-man was 
missing. Then we went to see if we could find him, and we fol- 
lowed his foot abut half a mile, to a house that is deserted, and 
we took ye tract of a great many Indians and we followed it 
about 10 miles, and having no provisions we was forced to re- 
turn. June the 26^ : We Ranged up to Jonathan Matthews hs. 
along with Capt. Masone, and ther we met with Capt. Houseley, 
and we sent over for the Emperour, but he would not come, and 
we went over to ye towne, and they held a Masocomacko (?) and 
ordered 20 of their Indians to goe after ye Indians that carried 
away Capt. Masone's man, and so we returned. July the 3'' . . 
July 1 1* ; We ranged up to Brenttowne and ther we lay. . . 
The 19*^ we ranged up to Ackotink, and discovered nothing. . . 
So we Ranged once in ye Neck till ye 20*'' Sept**, then we mercht 
to Capt. Masone's, and ther we met with Capt. Houseley and 
his men ; so we draved out 12 of our best horses, and so we 
ranged up Ackotink, and ther we lay that night. Sept. 22"*. . 
Sept 2^ We raarcht to the Suggar Land . . And the 24*'' Wc 
Ranged about to see if we could find ye tract of any Indians, but 
we could not see any fresh signe . . ; the 26*^ marcht. to 
Capt. Masone's, and ther I dismissed my men till ye next 
March.' " 

'' Suggar Land " is supposed to be identical with Fairfax 
and Loudoun counties and the opposite shores of Maryland, 
and its name was derived from the sugar maple tree, though 
there are none now in that locality.* 

The Northern Neck, or the country between the Potomac 
and Rappahannock rivers, had been granted by Charles II. 
to Lord Culpepper in 1683. But the colonists here had 
objected to this arrangement, and in memorials to the 
Assembly prayed that they might have their lands secured 
to them by patent as was the case elsewhere in Virginia. 

' " Virginia Calendar Papers," ▼©!. i., p. 44. 
• Jhid,^ p. xlvi. 


In 1692, George Mason being at this time sheriff of Stafford, 
there were disturbances in the Neck, growing out of alleged 
abuses in the proprietary government, and a council was 
held at James City, April 25th, when complaints were laid 
before it respecting " unfair and illegal proceedings " in the 
Northern Neck, " the Proprietors granting the escheats of 
lands in that neck to several persons, without finding any 
oflSce, as the law directs, to the great dissatisfaction of divers 
of the inhabitants." And to obtain a full account of these 
escheats and determine the remedies for this discontent, it 
was ordered : " that the sheriffs of the respective coun- 
ties in the said Neck do forthwith give public notice at the 
next courts to be held for the said counties, and in each of 
their parish churches, that all persons who have had any 
land granted them in the said Neck by escheats, since the 
proprietors* office was first set up there, do immediately give 
the said sheriffs copies of the grants for the same to be trans- 
mitted by them to the council." The copy of this paper 
sent to the sheriff of Stafford is thus endorsed by him : 

" This warrant was Published in open Cort, being read every 
day dureing ye Cort-Setting ; the Cort holding 4 days, and then I 
made demand in Generall — 

" Given un*** my hand 

'' Geo. Mason, Sheriff 

" of Stafford County." ' 

Captain Mason in 1694 sold " Accokeek " " being the late 
mansion house of Col. George Mason deceased," to Robert 
Wright of Stafford County. While disposing of all the 
"houses, outhouses, barns, stables, tobacco houses and all 
other edifices " on the place, and every thing pertaining to 
the plantation, the deed of sale reserves " the Tomb of the 
said Col. George Mason and the Burying Place in which 
it stands ... to be and to remain to the said George 
Mason and his heirs forever."* This estate of Accokeek, 
after passing through other hands, finally came into possession 

* IHd,, p. 38. * Mercer Land Book. 


of Nathaniel Hedgman in 1707, and as late as 1862, it was 
owned by his descendants. It lies in Potomac or Marlboro' 
Neck, the peninsula formed by Aquia and Potomac creeks, 
Accokeek Creek running into Potomac Creek, and has been 
identified as one of the plantations now known as "The 
Cottage " and " Rose Hill." This sale took place in Septem- 
ber, and in October, 1694, Capt. George Mason received a 
patent from the proprietors of the Northern Neck, Lady 
Culpepper, Lord Fairfax and his wife, and Alexander Cul- 
pepper, for the eleven hundred and fifty acres upon Acco- 
keek Creek which he had inherited from his father. This 
included the hundred and fifty acres he had just sold,' Two 
years later, in 1696, George Mason bought of William Sher- 
wood, James City County, two thousand one hundred and 
nine acres of land lying in Stafford County between the 
Potomac and Occoquan rivers, called "Doegs Island."* As 
he was living in this locality some years before, apparently, 
he must have made an earlier purchase of land of which 
no record remains. The earliest books at the Court-House, 
StafTord County, are in a very imperfect condition, the 
leaves having been wantonly torn out in many instances, 
while other volumes are altogether missing. 

" Doeg's Island " was, no doubt, a part of Dogue Neck or 
Mason's Neck, as it was afterwards called, when the whole of 
it came into the possession of the family. Bishop Meade, in 
his invaluable chronicles of the old Virginia parishes and 
families, notices the circumstance that peninsulas were some- 
times called islands by the early settlers, as was the case with 
Farrar's Island on James River and the neck of land on which 
Jamestown was built. On the 17th of November, 1699, George 
Mason bought two hundred acres of land near Little Hunt- 
ing Creek, in what is now Fairfax County, and the tract is 
described in the deed as " next to land late of Harper sold to 
Mason." * " Mount Vernon " is between Dogue Neck Creek 
and Little Hunting Creek, as marked on the map of Fry 
and Jeflferson, 1751 ; Doag Creek the former is called in the 

> Ibid. • Records at SUfford Coart-House. • Ibid. 


coast-survey maps at the present day. But the neck of land 
bounded on the north side by Doag Creek Is not the same as 
Mason's Neck. It is much smaller than the latter, yet appa- 
rently both of these peninsulas were at one time called by 
the same Indian name. In 1698, the Stafford County gen- 
tlemen send a letter of" grievances " to Governor Nicholson, 
the Council and Assembly, asking that the " bloody villain. 
Squire Tom, a convict upon record," be demanded from the 
" Emperor of Piscataway," who was then protecting him from 
punishment.' " G. Mason " is one of the signatures to this 
communication. The following year Governor Nicholson 
wrote to the people of Stafford in regard to the Indian 
emperor above mentioned, who had fled from Maryland to 
Virginia with his nation. The governor wishes the emperor 
and some of his great men to come to the meeting of the 
Assembly in April, and the Stafford gentlemen are required 
to send one or more messengers to the Indians with this 
message. George Mason heads the list of names signed to 
the letter of the Stafford justices replying to the governor.* 
It would appear that Captain Mason received the appoint- 
ment of County Lieutenant of Stafford about this time, and 
a letter from him to Governor Nicholson is extant, dated the 
9th of November, 1699, relating to this embassy.* There was 
a George Mason in this year, clerk of the court, and this was 
in all probability. Colonel Mason's eldest son. He gave in a 
list of tobacco tenders for 1699. " Between the South-side 
of Potomack and ye Lower End of Overwharton p'ish." * 

In the following letter to Governor Nicholson, which is 
modernized in its orthography and capitalization as repro- 
duced here. Colonel Mason gives a graphic account of an 
Indian outrage perpetrated in his county in 1700: 

Stafford County, June 18, 1700. 
May it please your Excellency : 

I got my letters ready to send your Excellency on Monday 

early, but on Sunday, late in the night, came a post to give an 

' " Virginia Calendar Papers/' vol. i., p. 60. 
« md., p. 62. » Ibid,, p. 68. * Ibid. 


account of a murder done in these parts, so hindered my then 

Sir : On Sunday the sixteenth, about three of the clock in the 
afternoon, came about twenty or thirty Indians to Thomas Bar- 
ton, about twenty miles above my house. The man and his wife 
and brother, being abroad, and left his three children and an 
orphan boy at home, and had got a man and his wife and three 
children from a plantation of mine, about two miles from him, to 
stay to look after his house until they came home. The Indians 
fell on them and killed Barton's three children, the man and his 
wife and his three children. The orphan boy ran away, he being 
out at play, blessed be God, got to a neighbor's house and is safe. 
They killed them with arrows and wooden tomahawks, . . . 
plundered all the house and carried every thing away ; killed a 
mare of the man's that was tied to a door. We took up about 
the house and pulled out of the people and the mare sixty-nine 
arrows. They left ugly wooden tomahawks five. On the news, 
I went immediately with a small parcel of men and buried the 
poor people. This murder was the horriblest that ever was in 
Stafford, and I thank God we have not had the least harm on this 
side of Occoquan since I have been in the freshes, and have kept 
the people bravely on their plantations, but God knows what 
I shall do now, for this has almost frighted our people out of 
their lives and interests, and besides the Emperor and his Indians 
being still out, which did as surely done the murder as God is in 
heaven. The man himself coming home, called at a mill and 
took a bag of meal with him, and about four hundred yards from 
his house, about twenty Indians as he guesses, started up and 
immediately had him in a half-moon ; he well-mounted, put on 
endeavoring for his house, but he being loaded, they had like to 
have got him, but with great difficulty [he] got his bag off, and 
broke through the woods and got safe to a neighbor's house. I am 
of opinion they had done al) the murder before, for undoubtedly 
they would have killed him but had no arms, for he saith they 
never fired neither shot nor arrow, neither had they any lodges 
with them, but naked. So I am of opinion that they had another 
party besides. If they had had arrows, they would have killed 
him, for their arrows was of great force, for they have made holes 
in the roof of the house as big as swan shot, and [he] believes 


there was at least forty by their several great tracks, and [I] am 
of opinion that great part of them is gone to Maryland and the 
rest back. 

Sir : I have raised twelve men, and have sent every way to 
search our frontiers and back forest plantations, and intend, God 
willing, to keep constantly moving myself with them until [I] 
have your Excellency's commands, then trust in God shall be able 
to give our people better satisfaction than at present can, for I 
am afraid that we shall have a bad summer, but if, please God, 
[I] can but keep them upon their plantations, it will be some dis- 
couragement to the enemy, but those two are deserted for this 
year. I do not doubt your Excellency's Christian care for the 
good of his Majesty's subjects, for without immediate care I shall 
have but few plantations in Stafford. Not [nought] to add, but 
my humble services to your Excellency, conclude, as in duty, 
I am your Excellency's most humble servant. 

G. Mason.' 

The handsome red wax seal attached to this letter is in a 
perfect state of preservation. The device is a heart pierced 
with two arrows, surmounted by a crown. And it seems 
probable that this impression was taken from a seal ring, 
which coming, as is likely, to Colonel Mason's grandson, 
George Mason of Gunston, was chosen by him as a model for 
a beautiful ring given by him to one of his daughters. This 
last, which is now in possession of one of her descendants, is 
set with rubies and diamonds in the shape of a heart with a 
crown above it. 

The Emperor of Piscataway disclaimed any connection 
with the late murders, and consented to remove his family 
and property back to Maryland. But the people of Stafford 
evidently distrusted his intentions, and they sent an '' humble 
petition " to the executive begging that he would provide 
more fully, for the safety of the frontier. George Mason 
signed this petition, and on the same day, July loth, he 
wrote to Governor Nicholson, giving him an official account 
of the state of affkirs : 

> IHd., p. 69. 


Stafford, C. H., July xo, 1700. 
May it please your Excellency : 

Your Excellency's commands from Colonel Fitzhugh have 
received, and shall be carefully observed. *The Rangers con- 
tinue their duty according to your Excellency's commands, and 
I have upon the request of the frontiers placed six men and 
Ensign Giles Vandecastiall officer to range upon the heads of 
the river ; that is I have raised them from Giles Vandicasteall's 
house up to the uppermost plantation. They [the ?] neighbors 
having fitted out their sons and other young men well acquaint, 
so their ranging is as low as my Plantation at Pohick, so round 
all the necks, up to the uppermost Inhabitants, so down upon the 
back plantations ; and Comet Burr Harrison, from Occoquan 
down to Potomack Creek with two officers and men doth give 
good content. They range each party four days a week, which 
is as hard duty as can be performed ; with said officers is the 
best to content in our upper parts. If your Excellency think fit 
so they may act, as they are cornet and ensign of the militia, but 
leave it to your Excellency's consideration. 

The Inhabitants still continue from their houses, but abundance 

better satisfied since part of the Rangers is constantly ranging 

among them. Sir, I find it will be of great disservice to our 

county business to have Captain Hooe out of the commission ; 

most humbly beg leave to conclude. Sir, your Excellency's most 

humble servant, 

G. Mason.* 

An order was issued from Jamestown, July 10, 1700, to 
^' Lieut.-Coll. George Mason, made commander-in-chief of 
the militia," requiring him to raise twelve men, with two 
oflicers over them, to range in the county for its further 
security. And we find the council again in the fall of this 
same year sending a fresh order to Colonel Mason. This 
time it is dated from the new capital, Williamsburg, and 
authorizes the County Lieutenant to continue the same 
rani^rs as heretofore, until the next session of the General 

> md„ p. 71. , 


Assembly.* Colonel Mason patented seventy-nine acres of 
land in 1704, part of it being the tract on which the present 
village of Occoquan now stands." He held at this time 1 703-4, 
divers tracts in the county, amounting in all to 8,000 acres, 
and his " home seat " was " Dogue's Island."* He bought of 
Joseph Waugh 1,08$ acres of land in Overwharton parish at a 
little later period ; and on the i ith of June, 1707, he patented 
seventy-nine acres on the Occoquan River, which last, how- 
ever, he soon sold.* The feoffees of the incipient town of 
Marlborough at this time were George Mason and William 
Fitzhugh.* Col. George Mason, whose unmistakable auto- 
graph identifies him with the writer of the letters of 1699- 
1700, sent a communication to Governor Spotswood, in 171 3, 
asking that his son, who had been nominated for that office 
by the justices of Stafford, might be made sheriff.* The last 
purchase of land made by Colonel Mason was on the 4th 
of January, 1714. He obtained, in partnership with James 
Hereford, 2,244 ^cres in Stafford County, a rude plat of 
which tract is found on the deed. It is described as situated 
between the main run of Accotink and Dogue Run, being 
commonly called " Hereford Manor." * It seems to be part 
of the neck of land on which " Belvoir," the Fairfax estate, 
was afterward situated. In the plat, " Mrs. West's land " is 
seen on the left of Accotink Run, and to the left of Dogue 
Run is situated the ''Chaple land," with a building on it 
representing the " Chaple." This was doubtless one of the 
Rev. Mr. Waugh's churches. The " county main road " runs 
south of Hereford Manor. In the will of Colonel Mason 
he bequeathed this property to two of his daughters, and 
the same tract is mentioned in the will of George Mason 
of Gunston. On the 5th of January, the day after this pur- 
chase, " Mr. George Mason, jun.," is seen to have patented 
1,930 acres of land in Stafford.' 

> IHd,^ p. 7a. * Virginia Land Registry Office, Richmond. 

* Records of SUfford Court-Hoose. * Tbid. 

* Journal of the Virginia Assembly, October, 1748. 

* ** Virginia Calendar Papers," vol. i., p. i66. 

* Virginia Land Registry Office. • IHd, 


Colonel Mason, as appears in his will, bought land of a 
number of private individuals, and apparently was a large 
property holder at the time of his death, which occurred 
in 1 7 16.* He had been married three times, and a large 
family had gathered around him. The first wife of Colonel 
Mason, to whom he had been married some time previous to 
1694, was Mary, daughter of Gerard Fowke, the second of 
the name in Virginia, This Gerard Fowke, removing from 
Pasbytanzy, near the early Mason homestead, settled in 
Charles County, Maryland, where he built a substantial 
mansion, which he called " Gunston Hall," and which is still 
owned by some of his descendants. The children of this 
marriage, named in Colonel Mason's will are George, French, 
Nicholson, Elizabeth, and Simpha Rosa. The second wife of 
Colonel Mason was Elizabeth, daughter of the Rev. John 
Waugh, and she had one child named Catherine. The 
Christian name of the third Mrs. Mason was Sarah, as 
appears by her will, but her surname is not known. Her 
children were Francis, Thomas, aud Sarah. There appears 
to have been a son Gerard,' not living at the time of his 
father's will, and two married daughters, whom he does not 
name in this instrument. These were Anne and Mary, the 
first of whom was married three times and the second twice, 
and their first husbands are mentioned in Colonel Mason's 
will as his sons-in-law. Anne's second and Mary's first hus- 
band were sons of William Fitzhugh, the founder of the 
Fitzhugh family of Virginia, and the writer of the letters 
above quoted. Simpha Rosa Enfield was married twice also, 
first to John Dinwiddie, a brother of Governor Dinwiddle, 
and secondly to Colonel Jeremiah Bronaugh, of King George 
County, and her descendants by both husbands are numerous.' 
Catherine Mason married John Mercer of Marlboro*, * who 
came into possession of the whole " town " of that name on 
Potomac Neck, or Marlboro' Neck, as it was afterwards called. 
And it is to John Mercer that we owe the preservation of 

> Appendix I. * Fowke Family MS. 

* Bromuigh Familx Bible, etc. , etc. * Mercer Family Bible. 


his father-in-law's will.' Elizabeth Mason married William 
Roy. Of the sons of Colonel Mason only two, George and 
French, married and left descendants. 

George Mason, the third of the name and line in Virginia, 
the father of George Mason of Gunston, like his predeces- 
sors, was prominent in the affairs of the colony. He was a 
justice of the peace in 171 3, and probably sheriff of Stafford 
soon after. When next we hear of him it is in the gallant 
expedition of the " Knights of the Golden Horse-shoe," as 
we may reasonably infer. 

In 1716, Governor .Spotswood made his famous passage 
over the Blue Ridge Mountains, instituting his knightly 
order of the Golden Horse-shoe — an incident in Virginia's 
early eighteenth-century history over which there has always 
rested a glamour of romance, and which has captivated the 
imagination of both poet and novelist. In the small party of 
gay and gallant gentlemen who formed the governor's escort 
there was one by the name of Mason, and there seems every 
probability that this was George Mason of Stafford County. 
One of the gentlemen of the company, Robert Brooke, 
afterwards surveyor of the colony, was living on the Rappa- 
hannock, in very much the same part of the Northern Neck 
as George Mason, and in his family the gold horse-shoe '' set 
with garnets and worn as a brooch," given to him by Gover- 
nor Spotswood, was long preserved as an interesting relic* 
Beverley, the historian of Virginia, was also of the party. 
In the brief account of this expedition by the Rev. Hugh 
Jones, chaplain to the General Assembly, written a few years 
after it had taken place, we are told that the golden horse- 
shoes were " studded with valuable stones resembling the 
heads of nails, with this inscription on the one side : Sic 
juvat transcendere inontes" " They were given to his com- 
panions by the governor, in commemoration of their success, 

* Mercer Land Book. (A copy of it is owned by the Va. Hist. Society.) 
« *• Narrative of My Life," p. 6. by Judge Francis T. Brooke. 
" Hugh Jones' *' Present State of Virginia," p. 14. 


and the horse-shoe was selected as a symbol because of its 
being an unusual requirement in the lower part of the coun- 
try, whereas for this mountain exploration a large quantity 
were needed. One of the party, John Fontaine, a Huguenot 
refugee, several of whose brothers settled in Virginia later 
and left descendants, wrote a journal of the expedition, from 
which the fuller details are gathered, and it is a lively and 
picturesque narrative.* The party numbered about fifty 
persons in all, including pioneers, Indian servants, and 
rangers. The several camps or stopping-places along the 
route were named after the gentlemen of the governor's 
staff, and one of them was called " Mason's Camp." On the 
return, when they reached Germanna on the Rappahannock, 
the journalist says : " Mr. Mason left us here." He took his 
way, doubtless, across the Neck to his home on the Poto- 
mac, carrying with him pleasant memories of the novel ex- 
pedition and its harmless adventures. 

But in the paternal household there was sickness and death 
about this time. Colonel Mason, his wife, and his son Nichol- 
son all dying within a few weeks of each other apparently, 
leading to the inference that they were carried off by some 
epidemic. And on November 14, 1716, George Mason ap- 
peared at the Stafford Court as the sole executor of the wills 
of his father and step-mother. In 1 7 1 7 George Mason and his 
brother French both patent some land in Stafford. George 
Mason gets his, a tract of 534 acres, in partnership with 
"Colonel Robinson, of Richmond."" This was one of the 
gentlemen who went over the Blue Ridge Mountains with 
Governor Spotswood the year previously. 

In 1 71 8, George Mason made his first appearance in the 
Assembly, he and his brother-in-law, George Fitzhugh repre- 
senting Stafford County. A seat in the House of Burgfesses 
was always an object of ambition to the colonial gentry, and 
this mark of popular favor continued to be held in great 
esteem after the Revolution, only declining in importance 

' "Memoirs of a Huguenot Family," New York, 1853, p. aSi. 
' Virginia Land Registry Office. 


upon the adoption of the Federal Constitution. In the early 
part of the eighteenth century the power of the Assembly, 
though much hampered by the Executive, was not to be 
despised, as Governor Spotswood found out. He had a high 
sense of his prerogative, and the burgesses were equally 
convinced of their rights and desirous to maintain them. 
In 1715, he found the Assembly intractable, and they had 
censured him in some resolutions which had been sent on to 
the Lords of Trade in London, who had control of colonial 
affairs. The new Assembly of April, 17 18, it was hoped 
would meet him in a better spirit. But the people had their 
grievances, which the fair words of the governor could not 
make them forget.' And not the burgesses only, but some 
of the council were opposed to the executive, in his rather 
autocratic administration of the government. Col. William 
Byrd of Westover, Colonel Ludwell, and Commissary Blair 
were among these independent councillors. The last named 
the founder and president of William and Mary College, led 
the minority of the clergy who upheld the position of the 
Assembly against the executive in the Church Convention 
which took place at Williamsburg in April, 17 19.' One of the 
prerogatives which the Virginians were striving against at this 
time was the claim of the royal governors to collate to eccle- 
siastical benefices, as representatives of the Crown. On the 
other hand, the vestries maintained the right to select their 
own rectors. Bishop Meade points out how closely the 
principle in question approximated to the one at issue in 
1776. "The vestries," he writes, "had been fighting the 
battles of the Revolution for a hundred and fifty years. 
Taxation and representation were only other words for sup- 
port and election of ministers."" Governor Spotswood, 
however, was accounted, on the whole, a public-spirited and 
upright governor. He made up his differences later with 

* ''Virginia Historical Register/' vol. iv., pp. 11-17; Spotswood Letters, 
Virginia Historical Society, vol. ii., pp. 299-306. 
* " Old Churches and Families of Virginia," vol. ii., appendix i. 
•/Wt/., vol. i., p. 151. 


the burgesses and the council, and one of the latter, Colonel 
Byrd, his sworn foe in 1718-19, visited him in after years in 
his home in Northern Virginia, and has left on record a 
genial picture of him as he appeared in the softer atmosphere 
of domestic life. 

George Mason in July, 17 19, was commissioned County 
Lieutenant of Stafford, succeeding his father and grand- 
father in this important office. The original commission, 
with the large official seal attached to it, is in possession of 
one of his descendants. Some of the words have become 
illegible in the lapse of time, and it has been thought best to 
supply them, from other papers of the same character which 
are extant. 

Alexander Spotnvood, His Majesty s Lieut, -Governor and Vice- Ad' 
miral of His Colony of Virginia^ and Commander-in-Chief of 
the Same Dominion : 

To George Mason, Esquire. 

By virtue of the authority and power to me given by His 
Majesty as Commander-in-chief of this His Colony and Do- 
minion, I, relying upon and reposing all trust and confidence in 
your Loyalty, Courage, and Conduct, Do hereby constitute 
and appoint you, the said George Mason, to be Lieutenant 
of the County of Stafford, Virginia, and Chief Commander of 
all His Majesty's Militia, Horse and Foot, in the said County 
of Stafford, Virginia, and I do give unto you full power 
and authority to Command, Levy, Arm, and Muster all per- 
sons which are or shall be liable to be levyed and listed 
in the said County. You are therefore carefully and dili- 
gently to discharge the Duty of Lieutenant and Chief Com- 
mander of the Militia by doing and performing as allowed all 
manner of Things thereunto belonging, particularly by taking 
care that the said Militia be well provided with Arms and Am- 
munition as the law of this Colony directs, and that all Officers 
and Soldiers be duly exercised and kept in good Order and Dis- 
cipline, And in case of any sudden Disturbance or Invasion I do 
likewise Impower you to raise, order, and march all or such part 

of the said Militia as to you shall seem meet for resisting and 


subduing the enemy ; and I do hereby Command all the Officers 
and Soldiers of His Majesty's Militia in the said County to obey 
you as their Lieutenant or Chief Commander, and you are to 
approve [observe ?] and follow such Orders and Directions from 
Time to Time as you shall receive from me or the Commander-in- 
Chief of this Colony for the time being or from any other your 
superior Officer, according to the Rules and Discipline of War. 
Given under my Hand, and the Seal of the Colony at Williams- 
burgh this Second Day of July, 1719 in the Fifth Year of His 

Majesty's Reign, A. D. 

A. Spotswood.* 

Colonel Mason's " loyalty, courage, and conduct," as this 
paper phrases it, had been manifested, perhaps, in defence 
of the frontiers which still required protection against the 
Indian foe ; and it may be these attributes had been shown 
upon other occasions, as in the tramontane expedition. In 
the recent Assembly, George Mason could not have made 
himself conspicuous in opposition to the governor, or his 
" loyalty " would not have been so apparent to his Excel- 
lency. Colonel Mason's courage and conduct commended 
themselves to others also about this time. The Scotch mer- 
chants, in their trade with the planters on the Potomac, were 
brought into close relations with the County Lieutenant of 
Stafford, it seems, and he had it in his power to extend 
them courtesies for which, as a mark of their appreciation, 
he was given, in 1720, the freedom of the city of Glasgow. 
As a large landholder and tobacco-planter himself, Colonel 
Mason would have, it is probable, extensive transactions 
with the merchants of the mother country on his own 
account. The old parchment " Burgess Ticket " is still pre- 
served by Colonel Mason's descendants. It is endorsed on 
the outside, '' Collonell George Mason, his booke of Glasgow 
1720." The border is illuminated in red and blue, and the 
arms of the city, with its motto, " Let Glasgow flourish," 
are found at the top of the paper, which reads as follows : 

* This interesting relic was taken out of its glass case daring the late war 
and carried for safe-keeping to Canada by the late Hon. James M. Mason, 
whose daughter now owns it. 


" At Glasgow, the second day of March, one Thousand, Seven 
hundred and Twenty years. The which day in presence of the 
Rt. HonWe. John Bowman, Provost of the City of Glasgow, 
Peter Murdoch, Mr. John Orr, and Stephen Crowford, Baillies 
thereof, James Peadie, Dean of the Gild, and several of the Gild 
Council of the said city, the Hon*>K George Mason, Esqr., Collo- 
nel of the County of Stafford in Potomack River, Virginia, is 
Admitted and Received Burgess and Gild Brother of this city : 
and the Whole Liberties, privileges, and immunities, belonging to 
a Burgess and Gild brother thereof are granted to him in most 
ample Form : Who gives his oath of Fidelity as Use is. Ex- 
tracted furth of the Gild Books of the sd. City by mee. 

"J^. Mc. Gilchrist, Clk:* 

The following letter accompanied the Burgess ticket : 

Glasgow, March 3, 1720. 

Having received certain Information of the many Extraordi- 
nary Favours you have done to our merch**. or their agents in 
Virginia we thought ourselves obliged in the name of our City to 
acknowledge your Goodness, and in Testimony hereof we do 
send you the compliment of the City a Burgess Ticket by which 
you are entitled to all the Rights and privileges and Immuni- 
ties of a Burgess or Citizen of Glasgow. 

Hitherto your Favours to our people have flowed from the 
wider motives of Hospitality, in time coming you will if possible 
multiply your goodness towards them when you can consider 
them not only as strangers but as Fellow Citizens with yourself. 
We wish you all happiness and prosperity and do most earnestly 
recommend you to the protection of the Almighty. 

To the Hon. George Mason, Esq : 

Colon*, in Stafford Co., Pottomack River, Virginia. 

A Virginian who was in Glasgow in 1848, tells of the 
pleasure he felt in finding a street there named " Virginia " ; 
and he adds, " We listened with interest to an intelligent 
Scotchman, who related anecdotes of the days when Vir- 
ginia merchants thronged that street, and were regarded 
with such respect that other men gave way that they might 
pass. He referred with pride to the beginning of the eigh- 


teenth century, when our ports were thrown open to Scotch 
adventure, and Glasgow, becoming the great entrepSt whence 
the farmers-general of France derived their supplies of 
tobacco from Virginia, received her first impulse towards 
that high state of prosperity she has since enjoyed." * 

In 1 72 1 Colonel Mason wad married to Ann Thomson, 
daughter of Stevens Thomson, Attorney-General of Virginia 
for some years during the reign of Queen Anne. Governor 
Spotswood went to Albany in 1722 to confer with the Five 
Nations, taking with him a member of the council and Col. 
William Robinson, who at this time represented Stafford 
County with George Mason in the Assembly. In the propo- 
sitions made to the Five Nations, relating to the boundaries 
" between the Indians subject to the Dominion of Virginia 
and the Indians belonging to and depending upon the Five 
Nations," a stipulation was made in regard to the return of 
runaway slaves belonging to Virginia, '*That if any such 
negro or slave shall hereafter fall into your hands, you shall 
straightway conduct *em to Col°. George Mason's House on 
Potowmack River." And the governor promised them upon 
" the delivery of every such runaway, one good gun and two 
blankets, or the value thereof." The Indians agree to the 
demand, and upon the final settlement of this treaty with 
the Five Nations, Governor Spotswood finds a novel use 
for the horse-shoe badge of the tramontane order. He " told 
them he must take particular notice of their Speaker and give 
him a Golden Horse-shoe which he wore at his breast, and 
bid the Interpreter tell him there was an Inscription upon 
it which signified that it would help to pass over the moun- 
tains; and that when any of their people should come to 
Virginia with a pass, they should bring that with them."' 

The inconspicuous administration of Hugh Drysdale suc- 
ceeded that of Governor Spotswood in 1723. The latter 
held his last Assembly in May, 1722, and this was the second 
session of one convened in November, 1720. An Assembly 

> Address of Rev. Phillip Slaughter before the Va. Hist. Society, Jan., 1850. 
' '* Byrd Manuscripts," vol. ii., p. 26a. 


was called by Governor Drysdale soon after he had entered 
upon his office, in which George Mason again, with William 
Robinson, represented Stafford County. Colonel Mason 
patented a tract of land adjoining the estate of Col. Thomas 
Lee in Stafford, in January, 1724. It consisted of two hun- 
dred and fifty acres, and was about two miles below the falls 
of Potomac. In the same month George Mason patented 
over four hundred acres on the north side of Dogue Run.* 

The Assembly met again in May, 1726, this being the 
second session of the Assembly of 1723, and Colonel Mason 
was doubtless present as one of the Stafford burgesses. The 
governor in his opening address tells the burgesses that they 
'Maid a duty last session on liquors and slaves imported 
as had been done by a former Assembly with very good 
effect, lessening the levy per poll. The interfering interest 
of the African Company has deprived us of that advantage 
and has obtained a repeal of that law." ' Here was another 
grievance which was to grow in weight and significance. 
From 1 7 10 to 1718, the Virginians had taxed slaves imported 
into the colony. But in this latter year the tax had been 
repealed by royal authority, and vainly in 1723 and 1726, did 
the colonists seek to restore it, renewing the effort fruitlessly 
at later periods. In 1727, the first year of the reign of 
George II., a new Assembly was called, which held sessions 
also in 1730, 1732 and 1734. But it is not known whether 
Colonel Mason was elected a delegate. If such was the case, 
it is not likely he was present except at the first session, in 
February, 1727, as he moved to Maryland to live in 1730, 
though whether before or after the meeting of the Assembly 
in May does not appear. 

An old paper has been preserved copied from the Stafford 
County records, dated August, 1729, showing Colonel Mason 
to have bought two hundred and thirteen acres of land 
at this time from Robert Hedges ** for four thousand pounds 
of tobacco and cash." The deed from Robert Hedges to 

' Virginia Land Registry Office. 

• "Virginia Historical Register/* vol. iv., p. 67. 


George Mason was sealed and delivered in presence of John 
Mercer.* This land adjoined that of the Alexanders. In 
1730 the county of Prince William was formed from the 
upper portions of Stafford and King George. And it was 
about this time that Colonel Mason moved from Virginia to 
one of his Maryland plantations. He took up his residence 
at Chickamuxon Creek, Charles County, opposite the new 
county of Prince William. And we find him on the 15th of 
June, 1 73 1 1 leasing the plantation of Occoquan to his brother- 
in-law John Mercer, for one year.* At the same time he 
leased to John Mercer certain lots in Marlborough as the 
following paper testifies : 

" Col. George Mason to John Mercer — Release, June 16, 1731, — 
3 lots. 

" This indenture etc., etc.. Between George Mason, late of the 
County of Stafford, in the Colony of Virginia, but now of Charles 
County, in the Province of Maryland, of the one part, and John 
Mercer of the said County of Stafford and Colony of Virginia 
aforesaid, on the other part. 

" Whereas, Matthew Thompson and John Withers, Gents., and 
feoffees of and for the town of Marlborough in Potomac Neck, in 
the County of Stafford, by their deed or deeds dated the i ith 
February, i69i>2, and now remaining enrolled among the records 
of Stafford, did grant, sell and convey unto George Mason, late 
of the said County of Stafford, Gentlemen, deceased (father of 
the said George Mason party to these presents) all the land those 
the several and respective lots of land situate and lying in the said 
town of Marlborough. And, whereas, by the death of the father, 
George Mason, the said lots descended to and upon the son 
George Mason, party to these presents as heir of his said father, 
etc., etc. [Signed] 

" George Mason." * 

An act of the Virginia Assembly passed in May, 1732, for 
settling new ferries on the Potomac River, establishes one 

* MSS. of the Alexander Family. 
* Mercer Land Book. * IHd, 


"Just below the mouth of Quantico Creek, over the river, to 
the landing-place at Colonel George Mason's in Maryland, 
the price for a man one shilling and sixpence and for 
an horse one shilling and sixpence." * Quantico Creek or 
Run, passes through Dumfries and enters the river about 
three miles below. 

Colonel Mason, tradition says, was married twice, but his 
first wife died early, leaving no children. By his marriage 
with Ann Thomson he had six or seven children, though 
three only lived to maturity. Three little daughters died of 
an eruptive disease, supposed to have been small-pox, and 
were buried in the same coffin. Colonel Mason's death took 
place in 1735. While crossing the Potomac from Virginia 
to Maryland, he was drowned by the upsetting of a sail-boat. 
It was said he was buried at " New Town," the seat of his 
brother-in-law, Mr. Bronaugh. But it is probable his remains 
were afterwards removed to " Gunston " to be placed by 
those of his widow. 

While George Mason's paternal ancestors were prominent 
for several generations in Virginia as men of affairs, colonial 
burgesses, and county lieutenants, the family of his mother, 
the Thomsons, bore a distinguished record, two of them in 
England and one in Virginia, as members of one of the 
learned professions. The first of the family of whom any 
thing is known, Henry Thomson or Thompson of Yorkshire, 
purchased the estate of " Hollin Hall," near Ripon, in 1658, 
from the Markinfields, and this place was sold by the Thom- 
sons to the Woods in 17 18-19,* who have owned it ever since. 

William, eldest son of Henry Thomson, George Mason's 
great-grandfather, was born about the year 1644, was ad- 
mitted to the Middle Temple November 24, 1664, where 
he is entered as "son and heir of Henry Thomson of 
HoUinghose, \sic] in the parish of Ripon, co. York, Gentle- 
man " ; took his degree of A. B. at Cambridge, it would 

" Hening's "Statutes," vol. iv., p. 362. 

' Memoranda kindly furnished by Mrs. Grace Wood of " Hollin Hall,** 
Ripon, Yorkshire. 


seem, in 1670 and of A. M. in 1674; was made a Serjeant-at- 
Law on the i8th of June, 1688, and was knighted at 
Whitehall on the 31st of October, 1689.* The order of Ser- 
jeants-at-Law, or the order of the Coif as it is called, was an 
old and honorable one in England. It was confined to a 
small number, seldom exceeding forty or forty-five members. 
And for a long time the King's Council embraced only the 
Serjeants-at-Law and the Attorney- and Solicitor-GeneraL 
Sir William Thomson appears to have filled his office with 
dignity and prudence, attaining to eminence in its ranks. In 
the biographical sketch of him compiled by Woolrych, some 
of the more noted cases in which he was concerned are 
briefly cited. In 1680, says this writer : 

" The tide was about to turn against the Popish plot. Never- 
theless it was thought expedient to prosecute John Tasborough 
and Anne Price, for an offence, which in law is called subordina- 
tion of perjury ; an attempt to persuade a person to forswear 
himself. The particular charge was an alleged conspiracy to 
persuade the notorious Dugdale first — not to give evidence 
against, among others, Langhorne, the Jesuit ; and secondly 
to retract and deny all the evidence he had given. He was to 
keep himself away in secret, and to sign a note, acknowledging 
that he had been in error." 

Sir William Thomson was one of the counsel for the de- 
fendants, and was associated with Pollexfen, afterwards 
Chief- Justice of the Common Pleas. In the extracts from the 
trial given by Woolrych, the justices on the side of the 
prosecution are seen to be somewhat lacking in temper and 
good manners; while Sir William Thomson's urbanity ap- 
pears to be unruffled by the attacks upon him. One of them 
says to him, " You toss great names about and make great 
noise with them, when you know they are not here," and 
another rejoins : " It is a fine thing thus to make a long 

I Admissions to the Middle Temple. Graduati Cantabrigienses. Haydn's 
'* Book of Dignities." " Lives of Eminent Serjeants-at-Law," Woolrych, voL 
L, p. 447. 


brief with to no purpose." Then there was a passage of 
arms between the Bench and the defendant Mrs. Price, 
" who spoke up like a woman, the counsel keeping warily 
out of the scufHe." A verdict of guilty was brought in 
as was to be expected, and Tasborough was fined /^loo and 
Anne Price /^200. 

In this same year, 1680, Sir William was counsel for the 
prosecution against Giles for the attempt to murder Mr. 
Arnold. This was a very mysterious affair, and excited 
much attention. Arnold was a justice of the peace, and was 
known to be zealous against the Popish Plot, so it was not 
difRcult to assign a cause for the murderous attack. He was 
passing through a lane in London on a dark night when he 
was suddenly seized by two men, badly wounded, and other- 
wise maltreated. " Mr. Thompson," says Woolrych, " ap- 
peared to lead the prosecution, and conducted the case with 
prudence and fairness." Giles was found guilty, and was 
sentenced to the pillory and also to pay a heavy fine. Sir 
William Thomson in 168 1 defended Slingsby Bethel, Esq., 
for an assault upon Robert Mason, at the election in South- 
wark, and made an able speech in his behalf. But though 
Bethel, who was sheriff of Southwark, was acting in the line 
of his duty, it was thought he had exceeded it in this case, 
and he was fined five marks. Not long afterwards Sir Wil- 
liam was made King's Serjeant. A famous case in which 
he was engaged in 169 1 was that of John Ashton, who was 
charged with high treason. Sir William was leading advo- 
cate for the prosecution, and the crime alleged was that 
Ashton had sought to inform the French King of the num- 
ber and strength of the English men-of-war and the best 
means to surprise them, and so facilitate an invasion of 
Great Britain. "The King's Serjeant opened the case with 
much moderation," writes Woolrych. 

" He continued the same patience throughout the evidence. It 
had been supposed that Mr. Ashton was a papist ; but the 
Serjeant interfered, and said, ' We have not objected anything 
as to his religion at all' And again, 'My Lord, I would not 


press anything further than the nature of the thing would bear.' 
Chief-Justice Holt replied, * Pray go on, brother, we are only 
talking among ourselves/ " 

The prisoner was found guilty and executed. In the fol- 
lowing year Sir William Thomson assisted in the prosecu- 
tion in the case of the Duke of Norfolk and Mr. Germaine. 
He also appeared as King's Serjeant on the trial of Lord 
Mohun for the murder of Mr. Mountford.* 

In Foster's " London Marriage Licenses " is the following 
notice of Sir William Thomson's marriage : 

" William Thompson, of the Middle Temple, gent, bachelor, 
about 24, and Mary Stephens, of St. Mary Magdalene, Ber- 
mondsey, Surrey, spinster, about 23, and at [her] own dispose, 
at St. Mary, Savoy, St. Giles, Cripplegate, St. Alphage, St. Mary, 
Islington, or St. Martin-in-the-fields, Co. Middlesex, 5 May, 1668." 

Le Neve gives Sir William Thomson's residence as Mid- 
dlesex,* and it is known that his son William had a country- 
seat there. He died some time before 17CX). The will of his 
widow, ** Dame Mary Thompson," dated 1706, has been 
preserved by some of her descendants in Virginia.* In it she 
requests to be buried " in the Temple Church," by the side 
of her late husband. 

Stevens Thomson, eldest son of Sir William Thomson, 
was born probably in 1670, was a student at Cambridge 
in 1688, and was in this year admitted, with his brother 
William, to the Society of the Middle Temple, where the 
entry appears as follows : 

"June 12, 1688, 
Stephens Thomson, son and heir of William Thomson, one of 

the Masters of the Utter Bar." 

After fifteen years' practice of his profession he had 
attained such distinction as to be named for the important 

1 " Lives of Eminent Serjeants-at-Law of the English Bar," Woolrych, vol. 

i., p. 447. 
* *' Pedigree of Knights of Queen Anne." 
' Mason Papers. 


office of Attorney-General of Virginia. Through the corre- 
spondence of the Lords of Trade we learn the particulars as 
to his appointment and other items concerning him. Gov- 
ernor Nicholson wrote to the Board of Trade in March, 1703, 
asking that an Attorney-General might be sent to Virginia. 
Benjamin Harrison (this was Benjamin Harrison of " Berke- 
ley," the third of the name in Virginia), who had officiated 
as her Majesty's Council-at-Law, lived forty miles from the 
capital of the colony, and his salary of £4^0 a year was 
so small that he would not consent to retain the office. 
In July the Lords of Trade represent the matter to the 
Queen, and "having been recommended by the Attorney- 
General to nominate Stephens Thomson as a person fit for 
that employment, and that he have a salary of £\QO per 
annum, payable out of her Majesty's revenue in Virginia, 
humbly submit that he may be appointed for that service, 
and that the Governor of Virginia may be authorized to 
constitute him Attorney-General in like manner as the late 
Earl of Bellomont constituted Mr. Broughton the present 
Attorney-General of New York." Sir Edward Northey, the 
Attorney-General, in his letter to the Lords of Trade says, 
in obedience to their commands, he recommends Stephens 
Thomson, Esq., who was the eldest son of Sir William 
Thomson, one of his late Majesty's Serjeants-at-Law. He, 
Stephens Thomson, was educated first at the University 
and afterwards in the study of the law in the Middle 
Temple, where he is of fifteen years' standing, and Sir 
Edward thinks him a fit person . to serve as Attorney-Gen- 
eral in Virginia. And he incloses a certificate in his favor, 
signed by all the magnates of the law, Sir J. Holt, Chief- 
Justice of the Queen's Bench, the Chief-Justice of Common 
Pleas, and seven others whose names are given. Finally, 
after further preliminaries, the order of the Queen in Council 
appears, authorizing Governor Nicholson to appoint Stephens 
Thomson as her Majesty's Attorney-General in Virginia, 
provided he be obliged to make his ordinary residence at 
Williamsburg, where her Majesty's service will chiefly require 


his presence. On the 6th of August Stephens Thomson 
wrote his acknowledgments to the Lords of Trade for their 
favorable recommendation. He says that nothing shall be 
wanting on his part to make good the character they have 
given him. And he begs a recommendation to the Ad- 
miralty that himself and family may have passage in 
one of the men-of-war now bound to Virginia. A letter 
was then written by the Lords of Trade asking of his 
Royal Highness Prince George of Denmark, Lord High 
Admiral of England, that Mr. Stephens Thomson may have 
such accommodation for himself and family as has been usual 
on the like occasion. It seems, however, from a memoran- 
dum appended, that Mr. Thomson did not make use of this 
letter but went in a merchant ship. On the loth of August 
he waited on the Board of Trade at Whitehall to receive 
their commands, and they gave him a letter recommending 
him to the governor's protection and encouragement in the 
execution of the Attorney-General's office.* From a letter 
of his daughter's, Mrs. Mason, we learn that Stevens Thom- 
son (as the name is now spelt in the family) brought with 
him to Virginia his wife, Dorothea, and five children, Mary, 
Elizabeth, William, Ann, and Stevens. He had a son born 
later, in Virginia, named Taunton. Elizabeth, William, 
Stevens, and Taunton all died under age. Mary married 
twice, but left no children, so that Ann became her father's 
sole heir.* 

Little can be learned now of the public life of Stevens 
Thomson, as the records of the General Court preserved at 
Richmond were destroyed by the burning of the Court- 
House, April 3, 1865. One memorial of his decisions has 
come down to us, and it is in connection with the famous case 
of witchcraft in Princess Anne County — Virginia's solitary 
instance of the sort. A certain unfortunate Grace Sherwood 
living in Princess Anne County was accused of being a witch 
and put in the river to see if she would sink or swim. It was 

' Sainsbury MSS., Virginia State Library, pp. 29, 46, 77, 81, 83, 84. 
' Mason Papers. 


in 1705 that she was first charged with this crime, and the 
case was brought before the August council at Williamsburg 
the following spring. Luke Hill presented the petition and 
it was referred to the Attorney-General, who was to consider 
it and give his opinion. This he did on the first day of the 
General Court, April 15, 1706. He thought that the 
county court ought to have made a fuller examination of 
the matter of fact, and to have proceeded thereon " according 
to the directions and powers to county courts given by a 
late Act of Assembly in criminal cases, and if they thought 
• here was sufficient cause, to have committed her to prison^ 
thereby it would have come regularly before the General 
Court. And whereupon,** he adds, " I should have prepared 
a Bill for the Grand Jury, and if they had found it I should 
have prosecuted." The opinion then concludes in these words : 
" I therefore with humble submission, offer and conceive it 
proper, that the said County Court do make a further enquiry 
into the matter, and that if they are of opinion that there be 
a cause, they act according to the above said law. And I 
shall accordingly be ready to present a Bill, and if found pro- 
ceed thereon. — S. Thomson, A. G.** ' 

A recent writer has said of this opinion of Virginia's astute 
Attorney-General, that it is " in its way as sagacious as the 
utterance of the Delphian oracle.*" Luke Hill could not 
justly complain of it, nor could it have been very alarming to 
the friends of poor Grace Sherwood. And it is satisfactory to 
know that the matter ended here. The legend still lingers 
in the locality where Grace Sherwood lived and suffered 
her petty persecution, and the spot is pointed out as the 
" Witch Duck.'* 

The time of Stevens Thomson's death is determined by 
the following notice in one of Governor Spotswood's letters. 
He is writing to the Lords of Trade, '* March 9, 1713-14," 
and says: "Mr. Thompson, who was for some years past 
Attorney General of this Colony, died in ye beginning 

' ** Virginia Calendar Papers," vol. i., p. 100. 

* Magatine of Anurican History^ vol. x. ; ** A Virginia Witch," p. 425. 


of last Mo., and I have commissioned in his place Mr. 
John Clayton, an English gentleman, a Barrister-at-Law." * 
Stevens Thomson's will was probably to be found before 
the late war among the records at Williamsburg. No copy 
of it is extant. The wife of Attorney-General Thomson is 
said to have been a niece of Sir William Temple, and tradi- 
tion asserts that Ann Mason as a child was a great favorite 
with her maternal great-uncle. "There is still preserved," 
writes one of her descendants, " in one branch of our family, 
as a cherished relic, a gift from him to her, being the Lord's 
Prayer written legibly and tastefully upon a circle of parch- 
ment, the size of a quarter of a dollar.* The name of 
William Temple was given by the younger of Ann Mason's 
sons to one of his children, whose place in Loudoun County 
was called " Temple Hall." 

The younger brother of Stevens Thomson remaining 
in England, attained there a position of considerable emi- 
nence. This Sir William Thomson (2d) was admitted to 
the Middle Temple in the same year with his brother 
Stevens, but was not called to the bar until 1698. He soon 
afterwards entered Parliament where he represented first 
Orford, Suffolk and then Ipswich, for a great many years. 
He was Recorder of Ipswich from 1707 up to the time of his 
death in 1739, and he held the offices of Recorder of the 
City of London, Solicitor-General, and Baron of the Ex- 
chequer. He was knighted, probably in 17 14. While in Par- 
liament, Sir William Thomson took a prominent part in the 
impeachment by the Whig party of the tory Dr. Sachavarel, 
in the reign of Queen Anne, 1 709, a famous case which ex- 
cited much popular commotion, and brought on riots that 
led to further judicial proceedings, when William Thomson 
was also employed as junior counsel against the rioters. 
Upon him it devolved, in his office of Recorder of London, 
to read the address of congratulation from the city to both 

' "Spotswood Letters," vol. ii./p. 61. 

*MS., "Sketch of the Mason Family/' by the late Judge John Thomson 
Mason, of Annapolis, Md. 


George I. and George II. on their accession to the throne. 
Sir William Thomson married in 171 1, Julia, daughter of 
Sir Christopher Conyers and widow of Sir William Blacket, 
Bart. His country seat " Osterly Park," was in Heston, 
Middlesex.' Dying childless at Bath in 1739, ^^ ^^^^ ^^^ 
property to his sister Sarah Thomson, with bequests to his 
step-children and others. After the fashion of the period, 
he left mourning rings to a number of persons. Among 
others, one to each of the Aldermen of London and the 
three other officers of that court, and he left a ring also to 
each of the postmen of Ipswich. The bequest of his por- 
trait was made by Sir William to the Court of Aldermen of 
the City of London, and the testator adds : 

" I desire it may be accepted by the said court as a token of 
my respect and grateful sense of the kindness and regard shown 
to me by the City of London, whose welfare and prosperity I 
heartily wish and have always endeavored to promote to the best 
of my capacity, and have the satisfaction of being conscious that I 
have served the city faithfully and with integrity, and hope to be 
remembered accordingly."' 

This portrait now hangs in the Guildhall, London, and is 
considered a fine picture. In 1743, there was a suit in chan- 
cery for the sale of Sir William Thomson's estate, and his 
cousin and executor, John Thomson, Esq., of the Exchequer 
Office, made inquiries in Virginia for the heirs of his brother 
Stevens Thomson.* 

> *' Recorders of London,'* Frith ; '* LWes of the Judges of England/' Foss ; 
etc., etc. 
' Copy of will of Sir William Thomson. — Mason Papers. 
* Letters of Ann Thomson Mason.— Mason Papers. 



Geoi^ Mason of Gunston, the patriot and statesman, was 
bom in 1725, as we know from an entry in the Family 
Bible, recording his age at the time of his marriage. He 
was probably born in the dwelling-house at Dogue's Neck, or 
Mason's Neck as it came to be called, which had been the 
residence of his father and grandfather. There was also 
a mansion-house at the plantation of Chappawamsic, in 
which his grandfather had lived at one time, and where his 
aunt, Mrs. Mercer, had been bom. This estate came later to 
Mrs, Ann Thomson Mason as her dower, and she was living 
there apparently at the time of her death. The old house at 
Chappawamsic, which was built of stone and situated on 
a hill, is not now standing. George Mason was ten years old 
at the time of his father's death, in 1735, and his brother 
Thomson was but an infant of two years, while the only 
daughter, Mary Thomson Mason, was a child of four. The 
two guardians of George Mason and his brother and sister 
were their mother, Mrs. Mason, and their uncle-in-law, John 
Mercer of Marlboro'. From 1730 to 1742, Dogue's Neck 
was in Prince William County, and Dumfries was the county- 
seat at this time, though this honor was afterwards trans- 
ferred to Brentsville, doubtless the " Brenttown " of the 
earlier annals. Here may be seen, at Brentsville, between 
the years 1732 and 1735, numerous deeds and leases to and 
from Colonel George Mason, who is described in them as of 


Charles County in the province of Maryland. There is pre- 
served here also the record of the administration on the 
estate of Colonel Mason in 1735 by his widow, who gives 
bond and passes her accounts. The following is the guar- 
dian's bond. 

'^ Know, all men by these presents that we, Ann Mason, John 
Mercer, John Gregg, James Baxter, and Catesby Cocke, are held 
and firmly bound unto the worshipful Justices of Prince William 
County, their heirs, executors, and administrators, in the sum of 
five thousand pounds, to the true payment whereof we bind our- 
selves, our heirs, executors, and administrators, jointly and sev- 
erally, firmly by these presents, as witness our hands and seals 
this 2 1 St day of May, 1735. 

" The condition of the above obligation is such that, if the 
above bound Ann Mason and John Mercer, guardians of George, 
Mary and Thomson Mason, their heirs, ex'-'* and adm'-** do and 
shall well and truly pay, or cause to be well and truly paid, unto 
the said orphans all such estate or estates that now is or hereafter 
shall come to the hands of the said Ann Mason and John Mercer 
as soon as the said orphans shall attain to lawful age, or when 
thereunto required by the Justices of the Peace of Prince William 
County Court, and also to save and keep harmless the said Jus- 
tices, their heirs and successors, from all trouble and damage 
that shall or may arise about the said estate, then this obligation 
to be void or else to remain in full force and virtue. 

Signed, sealed, and delivered 

in the presence of 

Thos. Robinson. 

Ann Mason, 
J. Mercer, 
John Gregg, 
James Baxter, 
Catesby Cocke. 

"At a Court held for Prince William County the 21st day of 
May, 1735, Ann Mason, John Mercer, John Gregg, James Bax- 
ter, and Catesby Cocke acknowledge this bond in open court, 
and it is ordered that the same be recorded. 
Teste = Catesby Cocke, 

Clk. Ct."» 

' Prince William County Records. 


Ann Mason's accounts as guardian give in great detail the 
expenses of the three children, George, Mary, and Thomson. 
Each child is charged for board and other items one thousand 
pounds of tobacco yearly. Thomson, on one occasion, is 
charged with linen and making three ruffled shirts, so many 
shillings ; while Mary is charged with wooden-heeled shoes, 
petticoats, one hoop petticoat, and linen.* Two years after 
her husband's death, Mrs. Mason leased to John Mercer the 
same plantation of Occoquan that Colonel Mason had leased 
to him for a year in 173 1. It would appear to have included 
more than one house, being, in fact, a small settlement with 
court-house and prison upon the place, besides the ferry. 
These three things are reserved in the lease, and a room also 
in the mansion-house is to be for Mrs. Mason's use when she 
has occasion for it. 

" Occoquan Plantation, Mrs. Ann Mason, widow of George 
Mason, lease to John Mercer, September 23d, 1737. This inden- 
ture between Ann Mason of Stafford Co., Va., widow and relict 
of George Mason, Gent., late of Charles Co., Maryland, deceased, 
guardian and next friend of George Mason, eldest son of the 
above George Mason, deceased, an infant under the age of 
twenty-one years, of the one part and John Mercer of Stafford, 
Va., of the other part. Witnesseth that the said Ann Mason 
hath devised, let, and to farm to John Mercer all that messuagb, 
tenement, and plantation of land on the south side of Occoquan 
River, and now in the possessidn of Thos. Dent, to contain one 
hundred and fifty acres, with all the houses, outhouses, gardens, 
woods, etc., appertaining to the same. Except the Court-House 
and Prison, and reserving one room upstairs, with a fireplace, 
when the said Ann Mason shall have occasion to make use of the 
same. Also excepting the Ferry, with the profits thereon. To 
the said John Mercer from the 3d October next ensuing for and 
during the term of nine years from thence next ensuing, paying 
the yearly rent of twenty pounds current money of Virginia to 
Ann Mason or such person as she shall authorize, &c., &c. 

Ann Mason."' 

' Ibid, ^ Mercer Land Book. 


The lease was for nine years, at the end of which time 
George Mason would have attained his majority. This ferry 
over the Occoquan River is thus mentioned in the will of 
George Mason of Gunston, who left the Occoquan plantation, 
afterwards known as ** Woodbridge,** to his youngest son. 
With it he was to have " the right and benefit of keeping the 
ferry over Occoquan from both sides of the river, which has 
been vested in me and my ancestors from the first settle- 
ment of this part of the country, and long before the land 
there was taken up or patented." 

Mrs. Ann Mason proved herself a very careful and prudent 
guardian. Her husband left no will, and under the then ex- 
isting laws of primogeniture his whole estate vested in his 
eldest son. " At this early period,*' to quote from the manu- 
script sketch of the family by the late Judge Mason, " there 
had already sprung up a strong opposition to this system, 
and in this Mrs. Mason participated, on the ground of its 
manifest injustice as was especially developed in the case of 
her own children. Her younger children were left without 
a farthing. To remedy this inequality she directed all her 
energies and talents towards the accumulation of the means 
to place them, as near as possible, upon an equal footing 
with their elder brother. Their mother appropriated all the 
money she should gather, whether from economy or other- 
wise, to the purchase of ten thousand acres of what was then 
called ' wild lands ' in Loudoun County, for which she paid 
only a few shillings per acre. No sooner had she completed 
the purchase than she divided the land between her younger 
chiWren. She did not delay this until her death, for the 
reason assigned by her that she did not wish her children to 
grow up with any sense of inequality among them in regard 
to fortune. The investment turned out a most fortunate 
one, and she thereby unwittingly made her two younger 
children wealthier than their elder brother." Ann Mason, 
yet a young and beautiful woman when left a widow by her 
husband's untimely death, never married again, though tra- 
dition reports that her hand was sought by numerous suitors. 


She devoted herself to her children, and her sons owed much 
to this wise and affectionate parent. She is said to have 
possessed all the brilliant intellectual qualities of her father, 
Stevens Thomson, and she was also a woman of great per- 
sonal charms and most amiable and domestic disposition. 

But while George Mason's youth was indebted much 
to his mother's judicious training, doubtless, there was 
another influence not to be overlooked. His early years 
must have felt the impress of John Mercer's mind. For it 
was to him the youth would have turned as to a second 
father for direction in his studies and for guidance, later, in 
the management of his affairs. The considerable difference 
in the ages of the two brothers, felt in childhood and 
youth, though lost sight of in maturer years, left the eldest 
son without a companion in his own family during his 
minority. He would naturally find associates in the house- 
hold of his uncle and guardian, and the latter must have 
regarded with special solicitude the ward who was in the 
position of the heir to his father's property, with all the 
responsibilities this entailed. John Mercer was a man of 
fine talents and attainments. As a lawyer he stood in the 
foremost rank of his profession. And as a patriot he was 
among the first to raise his voice against the aggressions of 
Great Britain. He was the owner of one of the best private 
libraries in the colony, and some of his books, having his 
heraldic book-plate in them, are still to be found in the col- 
lections of Virginia bibliophiles. George Mason must have 
enjoyed the advantages of this library and the benefits of 
his uncle's scholarship. Whether he received his early edu- 
cation, technically speaking, at a school kept by one of the 
clergy, as was common about this time, or whether he had 
a private tutor, cannot now be determined. It is certain 
from an item in his will that he had at one time others asso- 
ciated with him in his studies ; for he speaks in this instru- 
ment of a " Mr. Richard Hewit, my old schoolfellow and 
acquaintance from my childhood." Be that as it may, there 
is no evidence of his having been sent to college, and it 


seems likely that his tuition was mostly received at home, 
as was the case with many of the Virginia gentlemen of his 
time. There is testimony from George Mason's writings 
and speeches that he was a classical scholar, and his well-filled 
library in later years attested his wide and solid reading in 
the literature of his own tongue. His father is said to have 
been a man of scholarly tastes, and he may have had some 
share in forming the mind of his young son, as far as that 
was possible at the latter's tender age, for he had seen but 
one decade when this parent was taken from him. The 
brother of George Mason adopted the profession of the law, 
and was sent to London to study at the Temple, where his 
maternal grandfather and great-grandfather had left honora- 
ble records before him. His admission to the Middle Temple 
is found on its books in these words: "August 14, 175 1. 
Thomson Mason, 3rd son of George Mason of Virginia in 
America, Esquire.** This was the year after George Mason*s 
marriage, and we learn from George Mason*s will that he 
advanced money to Thomson Mason for his use at this time, 
which he is careful to state was a free gift, and not to be 
claimed as a debt by his heirs. 

The early years of George Mason must have been 
passed, from the time of his father's death, in his country 
home in Virginia, Mrs. Mason having evidently left the 
Maryland plantation after the catastrophe which made 
her a widow. His studies were varied, doubtless, by the 
amusements of shooting, fishing, and sailing, and his asso- 
ciates were found in the families of the gentry scattered 
throughout the neighborhood, among whom were the 
Mercer, Fitzhugh, and Bronaugh cousins. With his name- 
sake, George Mercer, a lasting intimacy was formed sub- 
sequently, but the latter, born in 1733, was just the age of 
his cousin, Thomson Mason. John Mercer jotted down in 
a diary the names of some of his neighbors, and the dis- 
tances they lived from " Marlboro*,'* and these families were 
Mrs. Mason's neighbors also, and some of them kinspeople 
of hers. " Marlboro' " was at the extreme end of Potomac 


Neck, it will be remembered; eight miles from Potomac 
Church and sixteen from Aquia Church — both of which were 
in Overwharton Parish. Capt. Peter Hedgman*s, the old 
Mason place, known subsequently as " The Cottage," was 
six miles from ** Marlboro'," and at a distance of three miles 
only lived Captain Fowke, one of the Mason cousins. His 
plantation, " Pasby tansy," was on the creek of this name. 
Mrs. Mason's place, apparently the Chappawamsic planta- 
tion, was sixteen miles from " Marlboro'." And Mrs. Wash- 
ington, the mother of George Washington, a widow like Mrs. 
Mason, lived also sixteen miles from the Mercers. Mrs. 
Washington did not move into Fredericksburg until 1750, 
when George Washington was about eighteen years old, for 
he was some seven years the junior of George Mason. And 
while still a youth, Washington lived with his elder brother 
at Mount Vernon, and was then a near neighbor of George 
\ Mason's. But it was probably at this earlier period that 
the acquaintance and friendship between Washington and 
George Mason commenced, a friendship of which the latter 
• speaks towards the close of his life as dating from his youth. 
John Mercer names as within visiting distance, seventeen 
miles and more, as neighborhoods were reckoned in those 
days, the Carters of ** Clives," the Taliaferros, Moncures, 
Mountjoys, and Traversf families, the latter being only two 
miles from " Marlboro'." ' Besides these we know there 
lived in this vicinity the Brents of " Woodstock " and of 
" Richland," the Fitzhughs, some of whom were George 
Mason's relatives, and the Bronaughs, who were also allied 
to him. There were also sons and daughters in the latter 
family, who were doubtless his associates in childhood, as 
we know they were the friends of his maturer years. 

Two letters of Mrs. Ann Mason, written in 1743, have 
come down to us, through copies preserved by her descend- 
ants, showing that at this time she had some prospect of 
inheriting property in England through her uncle. Sir 
William Thomson. His death, at Bath, in England, had 

* Mercer I^nd Book. 


occurred in 1739, ^"^ '^*s estate was at this time, in 1743, 
the subject of a suit in chancery. Mr. Ambler and the 
Nelsons, Thomas and William Nelson at Yorktown, had, in 
response to inquiries from London in regard to the heirs of 
Stevens Thomson, interested themselves in Mrs. Mason's 
behalf, and her friend and " relation," as she describes him, 
John Mercer, was active in forwarding her interests. Ann 
Mason's letters to her cousin and her uncle's executor, John 
Thomson, and to the merchants, Haswell and Hunt, Lon- 
don, on this subject arc well written and give evidence of 
her business capacity. Incidentally they are of much value 
in elucidating the family history. Whether anything was 
ever realized for her out of the suit is not known. 

In 1746 George Mason attained his majority, and a few 
years subsequently we may surmise he left his mother's 
house and went to reside on his estates in Dogue's Neck. 
In 1748, a ferry was established ** from the plantation of 
George Mason, opposite to Rock Creek, over to Maryland." * 
And this ferry across the Potomac has an historic interest. 
Rock Creek runs between Georgetown and Washington, and 
the land opposite in Virginia was a tract patented by George 
Mason's father, and lies a short distance above " Arlington." 
Near here in 1738, a ferry had been established across the Poto- 
mac on the land of Francis Awbrey, and it was now removed 
to George Mason's place, about half a mile higher up the 
river. And about this time it may have been that George 
Mason obtained by patent from Lord Baltimore the island 
opposite Rock Creek, called Analostan or Mason's Island, 
though it was called at one time, as we learn by George 
Mason's will, Barbadoes. The island and ferry both came 
later to one of George Mason's sons. And for more than a 
century the ferry continued in existence, to be replaced at 
length by a toll bridge. Finally, in April, 1888, a free bridge 
was inaugurated at this point, and for the first time in a 
century and a half the traveller could cross the Potomac at 
Rock Creek without paying toll or fee. 

> Hcning's "Statutes." 


In 1748, when George Mason was but twenty-three, he was 
one of five candidates balloted for at the election of burgesses 
in Fairfax County, and he received ninety-three votes. The 
most important event of his domestic life, his marriage, took 
place in 1750. Young, wealthy, handsome, and talented, he 
must have been at this time a distinguished figure among 
the jeuftesse dor/e of the Northern Neck. Doubtless he went 
to balls and races, and met there the belles of the countiy- 
side, both of Maryland and Virginia. But it was probably 
at her father's house, which was near property of his own 
in Charles County, Maryland, that George Mason made the 
acquaintance of his future bride, Anne Eilbeck. She was an 
only child and an heiress, and very lovely both in person 
and disposition. Her father. Col. William Eilbeck, was a 
wealthy planter and merchant, and had removed, in early 
manhood it seems, from Whitehaven, Cumberland County, 
England, to the province of Maryland. His wife was a Miss 
Edgar, of Maryland. Their country home, ** Mattawoman,** 
on the Potomac, adjoined the plantation where George 
Mason's father lived at the time of his death, and where his 
son had spent some years of his boyhood. The little Anne 
was but a year old in 1735, however, and no playmate then 
for the boy of ten. She grew up a belle and beauty, and a 
vague tradition associates her with young Washington as 
the veritable " lowland beauty " for whom he sighed in 1746. 
He was then but fourteen, and she two years younger. Her 
youthful charms, no doubt, made havoc in more than one 
susceptible heart. But at sixteen she became the wife of 
the stately young planter of Dogue's Neck. It was a love 
match, and proved to be a very happy union. In the Gun- 
ston Bible there is to be found, as the first entry, in George 
Mason's own clear calligraphy, the record of this marriage : 

** George Mason, of Stafford County, Virginia, aged about 
twenty-five years, and Ann Eilbeck, the daughter of William 
Eilbeck, of Charles County, Maryland, merchant, aged about 
sixteen years, were married on Wednesday, the 4th day of Aprils 
in the year 1750, by the Rev. Mr. John Moncure, Rector of Over- 
wharton parish, Stafford County, Virginia." 


A Soon after their marriage the portraits of Mr. and Mrs. 
Mason were taken by Hesselius, the early instructor of 
Charles Wilson Peale, and thus have been transmitted to us 
the features and appearance of George Mason in his early 
prime, with those of his lovely girl-wife. ^^The picture of 
George Mason represents him in the fashionable short wig of 
the day, which effectually conceals his own dark hair. His 
features are regular, the eyes hazel and full of expression, 
the complexion clear and dark. The broad, firm brow be- 
tokens intellectual ability, while the chin in its firm, strong 
contour, is indicative of character and will power. Lace 
ruffles fall over his well-shaped hand, in the picture, as it is 
thrust through an opening in the embroidered waistcoat. 
One of the handsomest young men of his day, he is said to 
have been, with a dignified and attractive bearing, graceful 
and prepossessing ; an expert horseman, and doubtless 
not inexpert as a partner in the minuet and country 
dance of the period. Mrs. Mason, as the old canvas 
portrays her, had small, delicate features, black eyes, 
auburn hair, and the fair pink and white complexion that is 
so often found with it. She was as charming in character as 
she was in appearance. One of her descendants wrote of her: 
" She was remarkable for the great beauty of her person, her 
good intelligence, and the sweet mildness of her disposition." 
It was doubtless soon after his marriage that George Mason 
projected the building of " Gunston Hall," which received 
its name from the old home in Staffordshire of his Fowke 

According to one account, the mansion-house of Gunston 
was erected in 1755. But this is evidently a mistake, or if 
the building was commenced at this time, it was not com- 
pleted until the spring of 1758. George Mason's letters, 
such as have been preserved, are dated ** Dogues Neck," 
until May, 1758 ; and the entries in the Family Bible record 
the births of the elder children, invariably as in " Dogues 
Neck," until in 1759 Thomson Mason's birth is set down as 
at " Gunston Hall." The eldest son, George, was bom in 
in 1753, and was baptized by the Rev. Charles Green, rector 


of Truro parish, Fairfax County. William, the second son, 
was bom in 1756, and his godfathers were the Rev. John 
Moncure and Thomson Mason. The latter, the child's 
uncle, was then a young man of twenty-three, and had 
probably just returned from his legal studies across the 
water. Five sons and four daughters, who lived to maturity, 
were born at length in the Gunston household, and were 
baptized severally in the large silver bowl of which George 
Mason makes mention in his will as that '^ in which all my 
children have been christened, and which I desire may re- 
main in the family unaltered for that purpose." And no 
doubt on these festal occasions the christening cake provided 
for the guests was put on the ** large silver salver " of which 
the will also speaks as " an old piece of family plate " that is 
likewise to remain unaltered. The early years of George 
Mason's married life appear to have been years of quiet, 
domestic happiness, with no greater calls to public duty than 
those embraced in the offices of vestryman or justice of the 
peace. He did not, like his predecessors, become County 
Lieutenant, it would seem, though he is always given the 
title of " Colonel " by his contemporaries. 

The first time that George Mason's name comes before us 
in any published records, associating him with matters out- 
side of his county, is in connection with the Ohio Company 
of which he was a member. The Ohio Company, consisting 
of twenty shareholders and having their agent in London, 
a prominent merchant there, was organized in 1749, and had 
for its object the colonization of Virginia's western territory 
and the promotion of trade with the Indians on the Ohio. 
They obtained a grant of six hundred thousand acres of land, 
lying mostly west of the mountains and south of the Ohio ; 
and they sent out Christopher Gist as their agent to build a 
road and survey the ground for a town and fort, which were 
to be situated near the present site of Pittsburg. Gist was 
the first white settler west of the Alleghany Mountains, and 
the Ohio Company made the first road in this locality. 
Eleven families settled around Gist, and there was a plan at 


one time for inducing German settlers to take up the lands. 
The chief promoter of the Ohio Conipany*s scheme at its out- 
set was the venerable Thomas Lee, President of the Council. 
Lawrence Washington succeeded Lee as the head of the Com- 
pany, and interested his half-brother George Washington in 
the undertaking. John Mercer of Marlboro' was the secre- 
tary of the Company, and his son George became later its 
agent in England. Governor Dinwiddle was also a member. 
The Company had been incorporated the year after the 
treaty of peace between England and France in 1748, and 
these countries had not yet settled the disputed question as 
to their respective boundaries in America, so that the Ohio 
Company in its pioneer work came in contact with the pre- 
tensions of the French government in this quarter. In 1752 
a treaty was made at Logstown with the western Indians, in 
which the Ohio Company had its commissioner present in 
the person of Christopher Gist, and the Dominion of Virginia 
was represented by three gentlemen, one of whom was 
Colonel Fry, who died in 1754 at Will's Creek, where the 
Company had established its storehouse. Col. Thomas Cre- 
sap with an Indian guide had marked out the Company's 
road to Will's Creek in 1748, and he was living, as an agent 
of the Company, on some of its land when Governor Din- 
widdle, the newly appointed Virginia Executive, wrote to 
him January, 1752, in regard to its affairs : " I have the suc- 
cess and prosperity of the Ohio Company much at heart," 
he says, " though I have not a line from any concerned since 
my arrival, but this from you. There is a cargo for the con- 
cerned come in the ship with me ; it now lies at Colo. Hun- 
ter's, the severity of the weather prevented his sending the 
goods to Colo. Mason's." ' 

This mention of Colonel Mason shows him as active 
in aiding the transmission of the supplies procured for 
the settlers on the Ohio Company's lands. Colonel 
Hunter's house was near Hampton, where the ship from 
England probably anchored, and a cargo of goods sent from 

• '* Dinwiddle Papers," vol. i., p. iS. 


there to Dogue*s Neck on the Potomac would be conveyed 
by George Mason to the landing in Virginia, opposite 
Rock Creek, where was the plantation and ferry before 
referred to, and from here it would go direct to Will's 
Creek. The French in Canada had taken the alarm, as has 
been said, and troops were sent out by them to garrison the 
posts along the route of the disputed western boundary. 
This measure was calculated to disturb the operations of the 
Company, and the Virginia enterprise had also to contend 
with the jealousy of the Pennsylvania traders, who feared 
any interruption to their profits in the Indian traffic. 

Such was the condition of affairs when in 1753 Gov- 
ernor Dinwiddie sent George Washington out as a commis- 
sioner to confer with the French commandant on the Ohio. 
Washington took the road over the Alleghanies which had 
been opened by the Ohio Company, and was afterwards 
used by Braddock, and hence called *' Braddock's Road.'* 
This journey had taken him up the Potomac to Will's Creek, 
where he crossed the mountains at Fort Cumberland.* It 
is not unlikely that Washington's account of the country 
about Will's Creek, given to his friend George Mason, on 
his return may have led the latter to patent lands in Hamp- 
shire County at this time. The Northern Neck had been 
construed to embrace Hampshire County and much more 
than was strictly in its bounds, and George Mason's patent 
from the proprietor is dated in October, 1754. It includ- 
ed five tracts of " waste and ungranted lands," amounting 
in all to one thousand four hundred and thirty-five acres. 
The boundary of one of these tracts begins " at a white oak 
standing upon the edge of the Potomac river," and ends at 
'* a red oak standing upon the edge of said river opposite to 
the mouth of Will's Creek." Another one begins " at a sugar 
tree standing on the edge of Potomac river right against 
George's Creek "; and the last tract beginning at a black 
walnut on the edge of the river, goes down the same and 

' Washington's report in regard to extending the navigation of the Potomac, 
¥fritten at this time, was given by him, in his last years, with other papers, to 
Gen. John Mason. (See Stewart's report. First Session 19th Congress.) 


" thence into the mountain east." ' The proprietor's office 
was in Fairfax County at this time, and Lord Fairfax's agent 
was William Fairfax of " Beivoir " on the Potomac, the founder 
of the Fairfax family of Virginia. He was a near neighbor of 
George Mason. And George Washington spent much of his 
time at " Beivoir," the Washington and Fairfax families being 
connected by marriage. 

Washington was stationed in Alexandria in the early part 
of 1754, and was busily employed in getting ready for his 
first campaign in the French war, a struggle which had been 
precipitated, it will be seen, in the interest of the Ohio Com- 
pany. He remained until April getting in recruits and sup- 
plies. And doubtless his friend at Dogue's Neck was keenly 
interested in these operations. Leaving Alexandria with two 
companies, Washington went out to Will's Creek with the 
object of strengthening the Ohio Company's fort at the junc- 
tion of the Alleghany and Monongahela. He arrived too late, 
the French commandant having already possessed himself of 
the post and named it Fort Duquesne. The young Virginia 
officer threw up defences, but was compelled finally to sur- 
render. In this expedition Captl George Mercer was engaged, 
as was also another cousin of George Mason's, William Bro- 
naugh. In the following spring a portion of Braddock's two 
regiments enlivened Alexandria with the bustle of military 
parade. And here the ill-fated general held a consultation 
with the governors of five colonies before going out to meet 
his doom at the disastrous battle of the Monongahela. George 
Mason must have mixed in this military and civic gathering, 
and made the acquaintance of the prominent men there assem- 
bled, among whom was the Deputy Postmaster-General of the 
colonies, Benjamin Franklin, who accompanied Governor Shir- 
ley to Alexandria. The Braddock House, dating from 1733, is 
still standing on Fairfax Street, and the Blue Room is pointed 
out to visitors as that in which Washington received his first 
commission. Maj. John Carlyle, who had married a daugh- 
ter of William Fairfax, owned this old dwelling in 1755, and 
it was then known as the Cary House, having been built by 

* Virginia Land Registry Office. 


Jonathan Gary, one of the Fairfax connections. Among the 
letters of George Mason that have come down to us, letters, 
in Carlyle's phrase, " selected not by the Genius of History, 
but by blind accident, which has saved them hitherto and 
destroyed the rest," is one to George Washington written at 
this time. A month had elapsed after the battle in which 
Braddock had lost his life and Washington had won his first 
honors, and the latter was back again in Virginia, and not at 
" Mount Vernon," but staying apparently at " Belvoir " on 
a visit, to which place George Mason sends his letter, or 
note, as it might be more properly termed. 

Dear Sir • Dogues Neck, August ist, 1755. 

I fully intended to have waited on you this evening at Belvoir, 
but find myself so very unwell after my ride from court that I am 
not able to stir abroad. 

I have taken the liberty to enclose you two bills for jQzoo , . . 
Stirling, drawn by Mr. paymaster Genl. Johnston on Col. Hunter, 
and an order on Govr. Dobbs from his son for £1^ . . 15 . stir :, 
also a letter for Colo : Hunter and another for his Honor our 
Governor. If Colo. Hunter should be in town whilst you stay 
there, I should esteem it a particular favor if you '11 be so kind to 
negotiate the affair with him. It is indifferent to me whether he 
pays cash or bills, payable in London, at the prevailing exchange 
at the time ; *t is probable it may suit him to take up the order 
on Governor Dobbs. If you should not see Colo : Hunter please 
to leave the bills with Governor Dinwiddie. 

I beg you '11 excuse the trouble I have taken the liberty to give 
you on this occasion, and give me leave to assure you that noth- 
ing would give me more sensible pleasure than an opportunity of 
rendering you any acceptable service. 

I heartily wish you health and every felicity, and that you may 
find the new Regulations in our military affairs agreeable to your 
wishes, and such as will enable you to acce^H the command of 
our troops with honor. 

I am« with my compliments to all at Belvoir, 

Dear Sir, Your most obdt. hub. sert. 

G. Mason.' 

' Washington MSS., SUte Department. 


In the "Dinwiddle Papers" there is mention of Colonel 
Mason at this time, in connection apparently with the mat- 
ters forming the subject of the above letter. On the 28th 
of June, 175s, Governor Dinwiddie writes to Major Car- 
lyle: " I answered Mr. Mason's letter by Mr. Alexander, and 
sent him a bill of exchange for the goods sent to the General.*' 
And again he writes to this same correspondent, July 9th : 
" Yours of the 20th June I should have answered before now, 
but have been much hurried. Mr. Mason's letter to me was 
to send him money or a bill for his account. The last I com- 
plied with, so he will have no demand against you, sir." ' In 
this same letter Governor Dinwiddie calls Colonel Hunter 
" Mr. Hunter," as he at one time speaks of George Mason as 
" Colonel Mason," and again as " Mr. Mason." It would 
seem that George Mason had been engaged in supplying the 
commissariat of General Braddock. Colonel John Hunter 
was commissary of the army at this time, and Major Carlyle 
was his agent in Alexandria. Governor Dobbs, of North 
Carolina, had a son in the service, who is evidently the one 
referred to in George Mason's letter. Colonel Fry's regi- 
ment, which was after his death commanded by Colonel 
Washington, was to have a " magazine " of supplies provided 
for it by Major Carlyle. Two of the companies were applied 
for by " young Mr. Mercer and Mr. Bronaugh." The former 
was John Fenton Mercer, a brother of George Mercer. He 
was killed by the Indians in the spring of 1756 when but 
twenty-one. William Bronaugh, saved from the arrows of 
the Indians and from French bullets, lived to receive in 1771 
his allotment of six thousand acres of land under Governor 
Dinwiddie's proclamation of 1754. A hospital was estab- 
lished in Alexandria, and French prisoners were quartered 
there in 1755, and the little town, with its commissary 
department and its importance as a military depot, must 
have been full of unwonted life. Twenty years later its 
pulses were stirred anew by the drum-beat of war, and this 
time the French were friends and allies, and the Virginia 

' •* Dinwiddie Papers/* vol. ii. pp. 79, 97. 


provincials were contending against the British regulars. 
Colonel Washingfton, Who was now in command of the Vir- 
ginia forces, was in Winchester in October, 1755, from which 
place he writes to Governor Dinwiddie of the distress of the 
inhabitants from the incursions of the Indians, and urges 
him to hurry the " militia from Fairfax, Prince William, 
etc., which Lord Fairfax had ordered." In January Colonel 
Washington is back again in Alexandria, but in the following 
summer, while at Winchester, George Mason writes to him, 
this time not on business of his own, but in behalf of one of 
his neighbors, an old schoolfellow of Washington's, who after 
enlisting in the army is desirous of returning to his farm. 

DOGUSS Neck, June lath, 1756. 

Dear Sir 

I take the liberty to address you on behalf of my neighbor and 
your old schoolfellow, Mr. Piper, who without duly considering 
the consequences, when he was at Winchester enlisted as a Ser- 
jeant in Captain Mercer's company. He has been down to con- 
sult his father upon it, and finds him excessively averse to it, and 
as his principal dependence is upon the old man (besides the duty 
naturally due to a parent) his disobliging him in an affair of this 
nature cannot but be highly detrimental to him. I need not then 
say that it would be an act of humanity in Colo. Washington to 
discharge him. Mr. Piper tells me that he has never yet been 
attested, which seems so essential a part of the enlisting that I 
conceive he could not be legally detained against his will, but has 
still a right to depart upon returning whatever money he may 
have received ; this I only hint and submit it to your better 
judgment. Be that as it will Mr. Piper would much rather 
choose to receive his discharge from you as a favor than insist 
upon it as a matter of right. It would be superfluous to add that 
your good offices to Mr. Piper on this occasion will ever be 
esteemed the greatest obligation on 

Dear Sir 
Your most obd. Servt. 

G. Mason. * 

' Washington MSS., State Department. 


Efforts were being made at this time to enlist the Cherokee 
and Catawba Indians in the service of the Americans against 
the French, and in November, 1755, commissioners were sent 
from Virginia to negotiate an alliance. A treaty was con- 
eluded with them in the summer of 1756, and they promised 
to send a number of warriors to Washington's aid, forty of 
the Catawbas and a hundred Cherokees. Governor Dinwid- 
dle wrote to Major Lewis on the 23d of Aug^ust that he 
had given orders to provide provisions for them on their 
march to Winchester. He was expecting ships from Eng- 
land with guns for the Indians, but they had not arrived, and 
he was sending all over the country to purchase blankets, 
leggings, and other things for them. " I have wrote to 
Col. Washington," he adds, " to endeavour to purchase 
guns for them from Col. Mason, or any other person." * 
Washington, it seems, wrote to Colonel Masoi^;five days 
later, and received the following reply, in which, however, 
there is no allusion to the guns. 

V DoGUKS Neck, September 13th, 1756. \ 

Dear Sir : « 

Your favor of the 29th August did not come to my hands till 
yesterday, as I did not see the messenger who brought it, who, I 
understand, called at my building on his way to Fredericksburg, 
I shall keep this a day or two, to see if he will call for an answer 
as he returns from thence, if he does not I shall send it to Mount 
Vernon, and beg the favour of your brother to convey it by the 
first safe hand to Winchester. 

V By the enclosed list you will be able to judge whether we can 
furnish such goods as will be necessary for our friends the Cataw- 
ba and Cherokee Indians. The principal articles wanting are 
kettles and striped Duffields ; I much doubt whether they can 
be got on this side Philadelphia, and perhaps not there, as the 
Indian trade has been at a stand a good while.>v 

The goods are all charged at the genuine first cost and shop 
notes,, upon which I think we cannot afford to take less than one 
hundred per cent. Virginia currency which I hope will not be 

' •• Dinwiddie Papers." vol. ii.. p. 487. 


thought unreasonable, considering the height of freight and in- 
surance, and the high exchange we shall be obliged to pay in 
paper currency for bills to make a remittance. 

I hope I shall not have anything to do with the C 1 or 

C m, for though I have no objection to any of the gentlemen in 

their private, yet they are the last people in the world I should 
choose to have any concern with — in their public capacity ! An 
uncontrollable power of delaying, altering, or rejecting the ac- 
counts of private persons, for articles furnished, or services done 
by their own orders, is a very discouraging circumstance. *T is 
a power which I dare say none of the government's officers in 
England would offer to assume, and I am mistaken if the fre- 
quent exercise of it here has not been highly detrimental to the 
public, as well as greatly injurious to many private people. 

My friend Captain Mercer gave me reason to flatter myself with 
the thoughts of having your company in Dogues Neck some time 
this month, but I am afraid if you wait the arrival of the warriors 
of the South, I shall not have the pleasure of seeing you a long 
time. We have been often made to expect great matters from 
these Cherokees, and yet I steadfastly believe they have no 
thoughts of giving themselves any further trouble than to get 
what they can from us by amusing us with fair promises ! 

I very sincerely wish you health, success, and every felicity, 

and am 

Dear Sir 

Your most obedient 

Humble Servant 

G. Mason. * 

The " C 1 " and the " C m " evidently signify the 

Council and the Committee of the House, powers which 
Colonel Washington had been obliged to consult, sometimes 
somewhat to his discomfort, and George Mason, as a private 
citizen, did not wish to come under their sway. The Captain 
Mercer of this letter was George Mercer, a member at this 
time of Washington's staff. Washington paid a short visit 
later to " Mount Vernon," but was back again at Winchester 
by the last of September, from which place he made, soon 

> Sparks MSS.. Harvard College Library. 


after, a seven-days' tour to Augusta and Halifax, examining 
the forts and the condition of the country. On this expedi- 
tion he met with Major Lewis returning from the Cherokees 
with only seven men. Colonel Mason's skepticism concern- 
ing the " warriors of the South " would seem to have been 
justified. However, Washington did not lose faith in them, 
and some of these Indians came to his assistance eventu- 
ally, performing much-needed services, for which Colonel 
Washington complained they received very inadequate 

In 1757 Washington was obliged to leave the army on 
account of his health, and he was for several months serious- 
ly ill at " Mount Vernon." George Mason wrote to him on 
the 4th of January, 1758, sending the letter by his cousin, 
French Mason, the son, probably, of George Mason's uncle 
of the same name. Colonel Mason's sister was at this time, 
as we learn from this letter, lying at the point of death at 
her mother's place, '* Chappawamsic." Mary Thomson Ma- 
son had married, April II, 1 75 1, Colonel Samuel Selden of 
'* Salvington " in Stafford County, near Fredericksburg. Of 
her two children, Samuel, born in 1756, and Mary Mason Sel- 
den, born in 1754, the latter only lived to maturity. She 
married Mann Page of '* North End," and her descendants 
are found among the Pages, Swanns, and other prominent 
families of Virginia and Maryland. Mrs. Selden's portrait, 
which has been preserved, shows her to have inherited her 
mother's beauty. She died January 5, 1758. 

Dear Sir : Doguks Nkck, 4th Jany., 1758. 

The bearer (my cousin French Mason) waits on you with an ac- 
count I received from Captain Trent, amounting to ;^i65-i2-2|. 
As I have an immediate call for a pretty large sum, you will par- 
ticularly oblige me in sending the cash per this bearer who will 
give a receipt for what he receives. If you happen not to have 
the cash at home, I must beg the favor of you to order it for me 
by the first safe hand from Winchester. 

I intended to have waited on you myself this day or tomorrow 
with this account, but am prevented by an express this morning 



from Chappawamsic, to acquaint me that my Sister Selden (who 
has been ill a long time) is now given over by her physician, and 
not expected to live many hours, and I am just setting off upon 
the melancholy errand of taking my last leave of her ! — 

I hope you will comply with the opinion and advice of all your 
friends, and not risk a journey to Winchester till a more favor- 
able season of the year, or a better state of health will permit you 
to do it with safety. And give me leave, Sir, to mention another 
consideration, which I am sure will have weight with you, in at- 
tempting to attend the duties of your post at a season of the year 
when there is no room to expect an alarm, or anything extraordi- 
nary to require your presence, you will, in all probability, bring 
on a relapse, and render yourself incapable of serving the public 
at a time when there may be the utmost occasion. And there is 
nothing more certain than that a gentleman in your station owes 
the care of his health and life not only to himself and his friends, 
but to his country. If you continue any time at Mount Vernon, 
I will do myself the pleasure of spending a day or two with you 
very soon. 

I am, with Mrs. Mason's compliments and my own to your 
brother, his lady, and yourself 

Dear Sir 
Your affectionate humble servant 

G. Mason. ■ 

How little did either Washington or Mason then dream of 
that ** utmost occasion " which would demand the services 
of both of them in the future ! The next letters preserved 
of this correspondence were written by Colonel Mason to 
Washington at Fort Loudoun, to recommend his cousin, 
French Mason, for an appointment in the army. 

Race Ground at Bogges's, 
Saturday, 6th May, 1758, 5 o'clock P.M. 

Dear Sir : 

The bearer, French Mason, a relation of mine, has an in- 
clination to serve his country upon the intended expedition. 
I recommended him to the president for a lieutenancy in the 

' Washington MSB., State Department. Sparks publishes an extract from 
this letter. 


regiment now raising, but unfortunately before he reached Wil- 
liamsburg every commission was disposed of, otherwise he was 
sure of succeeding, as the president would have done him any 
service in his power. As there are some vacancies in your regi- 
ment, his honor has been so kind to give him a letter of recom- 
mendation to you. Had I known of these vacancies I should 
have taken the liberty of applying to you sooner on his behalf ; 
for as he purposes to continue longer in the service than this 
campaign and push his fortune in that way of life, he would 
prefer a commission in your regiment, and it would give me great 
satisfaction that he was under the immediate command of a gen- 
tleman for whom I have so high an esteem. 

You may be assured. Sir, that I would not recommend a person 
to your favor whom I did not from my own knowledge believe to 
be a young fellow of spirit and integrity. He has lived a good 
while with me, and, if I am not greatly deceived, he has personal 
bravery that will carry him through any danger with reputation, 
and this opinion I am the more confirmed in as he never was a 
flashy fellow. He has been but little in company, and has not 
that address which is requisite to set a man in an advantageous 
light at first, but he is a very modest lad, and does not want parts, 
and I am confident will endeavour to deserve your good opinion, 
as well as to support the character I have given him. He this 
moment came up from Williamsburg and found me here, and as 
I thought there was no time to be lost I advised him to set off 
instantly for Winchester, as soon as I could procure this scrap of 
paper, and get a place in the crowd to sit down to write. If he 
fails in a commission he had thoughts of going out a volunteer, 
but as he has but a small fortune I advised him against it. What- 
ever you are so kind to do for him on this occasion I shall always 
regard as a particular obligation to me. I beg you '11 excuse this 
trouble and believe [me] on all occasions, very sincerely 
Dear Sir 

Your most obedient humble servant, 

G. Mason. 

I have really wrote this in such a hurry, that I am afraid it is 
hardly intelligible.' 

^ JHd. 


The president of the council and acting governor at this 
time was John Blair, and evidently he was a good friend of 
George Mason's. The " Race Ground at Bogges's," from 
which this letter is dated, is pointed out to-day as near the 
present Pohick Church. And the race of the Bogges has 
disappeared as completely as the race-course itself, though 
the older inhabitants in the neighborhood still recall the 
name. It is difficult now in driving over this quiet, rather 
deserted locality, to picture the gay scenes of these early 
days, when the gentry of the country, the Fairfaxes, Lees, 
Washingtons, Masons, and others indulged in one of their 
favorite amusements on this old race-ground. The yellow 
manuscript with its faintly traced characters, penned by 
Colonel Mason in such haste, amidst the crowd and confu- 
sion of that May afternoon in 1758, still seems, however, to 
carry with it a suggestion of the genial, stirring, eighteenth- 
century life of which it was once a part. George Mason 
wrote again to Colonel Washington ten days later : 

DoGUES Neck, i6th May, 1758. 

Dear Sir : 

I am favored with yours of the 8th inst. per French Mason 
and am perfectly satisfied with the justice of your reasons for 
not providing for him in your regiment at this time. I am con- 
vinced, from your state of the case, that it could not well have 
been done without prejudicing the service. He tells me you were 
kind enough to promise him a commission the next vacancy that 
happens. I should have been very glad his fortune would have 
supported him as a volunteer. Both he and I were very fond of 
his entering as such in your regiment ; but I really did not think 
it advisable that he should run his own little estate in debt upon 
the occasion. You know what kind of an establishment our 
Virginia troops are on. Nobody can tell how soon they may all 
be disbanded, without any provision for a broken leg or a short- 
ened arm ! Or if they should happen to be kept up for a good 
many years, how possible is it for an officer to be reduced without 
being guilty, or so much as accused of any misbehaviour ? Faith, 
these are discouraging circumstances. On the British establish- 


ment a young fellow may venture to dip his estate a little on the 
road to preferment, where he is sure, if he behaves well, that a 
commission is some sort of a provision for life ; but I really think 
a young man who enters into the service and has but a small 
estate of his own, ought if possible to preserve it unimpaired, to 
return to in case of a disappointment or an accident. These 
reasons have influenced me to dissuade French Mason from enter- 
ing as a volunteer, and as he is very fond of trying a soldier's 
life, and indeed I found it absolutely necessary that he should do 
so, as the only means of getting clear of a very foolish afifair he is 
likely to fall into with a girl in this neighborhood, I have advised 
him to enlist in the new regiment, if he can be made a serjeant. 
My reason for advising him to enlist in that regiment is, that if he 
should be disappointed in getting a commission, he may, if he 
pleases, quit the service the first of December next ; whereas 
from the Act of Assembly it appears to me that the men who en- 
list in the old regiment may be detained as long as any troops are 
kept up in the pay of this government ; at least it may admit of 
a dispute. I speak to you only as my own private opinion, with- 
out any intention of making it public to the prejudice of the 
recruiting service. If he should have the good fortune to get a 
commission, though he will accept of the first that offers in either 
regiment, he will prefer an ensigncy in your regiment to a lieu- 
tenancy in the other ; and I have advised him if he should get a 
commission in Colonel Byrd's regiment to exchange it if he can 
by any means for one in yours. I shall rely, sir, on your good 
offices in his favor whenever a vacancy happens, and I flatter 
myself that, by a strict adherence to his duty, he will strive to 
deserve your good opinion. 

I very sincerely wish you health and every felicity, and am. 

Dear Sir, 

Your most obedient servant, 

G. Mason.* 

Whether French Mason, this " young fellow of spirit and 
integrity," a ** modest lad " who did not "want parts," ever 
obtained his coveted commission is not made apparent. His 
name drops out of the family history at this point. 

' Ibui. 


The above letter of George Mason is the last that has 
been preserved that is dated from " Dogues Neck.** " Guns- 
ton Hall,'* as we have said, was probably completed about 
this time, and the family moved into it from the older plan- 
tation. Colonel Mason made more purchases of land in 
1757. He patented three tracts of land in Fairfax County 
in July, and one in September of this year ; in all they 
amounted to 3,641 acres. One of these tracts adjoined some 
of George Mason's property on the branches of Accotink and 
Difficult Run. One was on the south branch of Little Hunting 
Creek, and a third was on Dogue's Neck, " being marsh and 
sunken ground upon Potomac River, adjoining to his own 
land, opposite to Crane Island.** * In 1758 Colonel Washing- 
ton, after the capture of Fort Duquesne (Fort Pitt), resigned 
his commission, and was married in the following year to the 
young widow of the " White House.** Governor Dinwiddle 
had sailed for Europe in January, 1758, and it was the presi- 
dent of the council, as we have seen, who had promised 
French Mason a commission. Governor Fauquier was ta 
arrive a little later. 

At the Assembly in this year the town of Leesburg, in 
Loudoun County, was incorporated, and received its name 
from the Lees, who were extensive landholders in Loudoun at 
this time. Thomson Mason, whose estates in Loudoun gave 
him large interests in the county, was appointed, with 
Thomas Lightfoot and Philip Ludwell Lee, and others, a 
trustee of the newly established town.' It was at this 
session, September, 1758, that Thomson Mason*s name first 
appears in the Assembly as one of the burgesses from Staf- 
ford, a county which had been represented by his ancestors 
for three generations. George Mason was to be identified 
in the Assembly with Fairfax County, which was, of course, 
a part of the original Stafford. Thomson Mason was 
probably living at this time in Dumfries, or at '' Chappa- 

' Virginia Land Registry Office. 

•Hening's "Statutes," vol. vii. In the printed SUtnte "Francis Mason" 
is evidently a misprint for Thomson Mason. 


wamsic" with his mother. His marriage must have occurred 
in 1758 or 1759, and his eldest son, Stevens Thomson 
Mason, was born at " Chappawamsic " in 1760. The Assem- 
bly in 1758 increased the Virginia army for the French war, 
and Colonel Washington visited Williamsburg to consult 
with the executive on military affairs. In the meagre jour- 
nal of the Assembly Thomson Mason's name occurs only 
twice. Once this is in connection with the petition of a 
certain John Smith, captain of a company that had been 
engaged in an unfortunate expedition against the Shawnese 
Indians in 1756. He had been degraded from the service 
and his pay stopped, without opportunity of clearing his 
character, and Thomson Mason was a member of the com- 
mittee appointed to inquire into his case. The single other 
legislative act reported of the future jurist and statesman 
was the preparation of a bill far killing crows and squirrels^ 
There was one important law passed by this Assembly for 
which one would rather not hold Thomson Mason in any 
way responsible. This was the famous act which reduced 
the salaries of the clergy and brought on a controversy 
between them and the Assembly and vestries which had 
far-reaching consequences. Bishop Meade speaks of this 
Option Law, or Two-penny Act, as it was called, as " a deep 
stain on the legislature of that day.** ' A second session of 
this Assembly was held in November, when the act was 
passed for defending the frontiers. And on the 22d of 
February, 1759, ^1^*^ Assembly held its third session. 

It is on this occasion that George Mason's name is first met 
with in the journals of the burgesses. He may, however, have 
been in the Assembly earlier. It is impossible to obtain 
a complete list of the burgesses in Virginia previous to the 
Revolution. He represented Fairfax County, and appar- 
ently did not take his seat until March. On the 6th of this 
month he was added to the Committee of Privileges and 
Elections, and two days afterwards he was put on the Com- 

* Journal of the Assembly. 

' " Old Churches and Families of Virginia/' vol. i., p. 225. 


mittee of Propositions and Grievances, The House at this 
time had quite an exciting affair on hand, Mr. Thomas 
Walker having to defend himself against charges brought 
by Thomas Johnson, a member of the burgesses, as to his 
contract with the government in 1757 to supply the troops 
with provisions. This was Dr. Thomas Walker of " Castle 
Hill," one of the eminent Virginians of his day, and a man 
of ability and integrity. The House took his part, and he 
was kept in office as Commissary-General of the Virginia 
troops ; " courted and caressed by the Assembly,*' complains 
the irate Mr. Johnson. When the latter was asked how he 
could be thus sustained if he had cheated the country, the 
reply was : " You know very little of the schemes, plots, and 
contrivances that are carried on in the House of Burgesses ; 
in short, one holds the lamb while another skins ; and it 
would surprise any man to see in what manner the country's 
money is squandered away, which I have used my utmost 
endeavours to prevent, in which I could never succeed but 
once, and that to a trifling amount." Further iniquities of 
the House are thus unfolded by this professed reformer of 
the Civil Service. He says, " that when the clerk's salary 
was proposed to be settled, Mr. Randolph [John], the clerk, 
got up, and walking through the Burgesses, gave a nod 
to his creatures on each side, who all followed him out of 
the House and promised to be for the largest sum proposed." 
All this matter is referred to the Committee of Privileges 
and Elections. 

On the 14th of March the Committee of Propositions 
and Grievances made a report, and different petitions as 
to warehouses, the dissolution of vestries, establishment 
of ferries, and other subjects were considered, and it was 
ordered that bills be prepared by the committee in the 
several cases. A petition of the justices and others of the 
county of Fairfax was read and referred to the Committee 
of Propositions and Grievances. It was in opposition to 
a scheme for making the justices pay the twenty-two 
thousand pounds of tobacco levied by them on the inhabi- 


tants of the county for building a wharf at Alexandria. 
And no doubt George Mason saw this matter rightly 
adjudicated. The following day this same committee made 
several reports, and bills were ordered to be prepared for 
establishing towns, lessening the duty on slaves, regulating 
the fees of pilots, etc. On the 17th this committee made a 
report on various subjects, and the question of the wharf in 
Alexandria was disposed of. It was agreed " that the said 
wharf ought to be vested in trustees of the said town of 
Alexandria, and they be impowered to take wharfage, and 
out of the money arising thereby to pay the said Justices 
the moneys by them to be refunded, and to apply the over- 
plus towards keeping the said wharf in repair." 

There were petitions and counter-petitions before the 
House on the subject of adding a part of Prince William 
County to the county of Fairfax, and otherwise altering the 
boundaries of these two counties and that of Loudoun. The 
treasurer's accounts were referred to a committee to ex- 
amine into, and George Mason was one of their number. 
On the 3d of April the Committee of Propositions and 
Grievances administered a rebuke to Mr. Johnson by a 
resolve that his remarks were " false, scandalous, and mali- 
cious.*' But there was evidently a strong party behind him^ 
as in the vote of the House on the resolution of censure it 
was agreed to by thirty-seven yeas against thirty-two nays. 
On the loth of April the House resolved that two hundred 
out of the five hundred men to be raised for the protection 
of the frontiers should be employed as artificers, and joined 
to the regiment now in the pay of the colony ; and that an 
additional bounty of five pounds be paid to the persons who 
shall enlist in the said companies. George Mason was one 
of the committee appointed to prepare the necessary bills.* 
George Washington was also in the Assembly, for the first 
time, in February, 1759. And he received the thanks of this 
body for his services on the frontier. The excitement 
aroused in certain counties of the Northern Neck on the 

* Journal of the Assembly, February. 1759. 


question of their boundary lines must have communicated 
itself to the Assembly at this session. And though the 
journal does not give us any clew to Colonel Mason's views, 
it is evident, from a letter that has been preserved, written 
by Lord Fairfax to his cousin, George William Fairfax, of 
" Belvoir," that George Mason had been active in urging a 
project that did not commend itself to the Lord Proprietor. 
Colonel Mason must have met Lord Fairfax often at " Bel- 
voir," and it is very probable he visited " Greenway Court *' 
at one time, as in a recently published, undated letter from 
Lord Fairfax to Charles Lee of Alexandria, the writer sayh 
he had sent his correspondent some money due him by the 
hands of " Col, George Mason," who " will deliver the lettei 
himself." * Lord Fairfax, a short time before the Assembly 
met, wrote as follows : 

•* February i6. 1759. 

<< Dear George : 

" Yours I this evening received and shall be very sorry if Mr 
Mason should be able to carry a point so prejudicial to the threi 
counties of Fairfax, Loudon, and Prince William. If the Lech 
and Custis should join in the affair I doubt they with the assist 
ance of James River will carry it in the House of Assembly. J 
will therefore write to Col. Philip Lee and Col. Tayloe and tr> 
what we can do in the upper House." " 

The Assembly passed an act for dividing the county ol 
Prince William and forming the county of Fauquier. And 
probably this is what Lord Fairfax has reference to. Then 
were five other sessions of this Assembly ; one more in 1759 
three in 1760, and one in the spring of 1761, but it does not 
appear that George Mason attended any of them, or that he 
was a candidate for the next Assembly, which met in thi 
fall of 1761. It would seem that this was his first and onl) 
experience of political life previous to the Revolution, anci 
that it had not impressed him favorably. In the famou: 

' Maganne of American History , February, 1886. 

* « The Fairfaxes of England and America," p. iii. E. D. Neill. 


passage in his will, drawn up in 1773, Colonel Mason gives 
his own " experience in life/* as that which led him to urge 
upon his sons " to prefer the happiness of independence and 
a private station to the troubles and vexation of public busi- 
ness." This contest with Lord Fairfax may have been one 
of these vexations. And the independent spirit of the future 
patriot, perhaps, felt too sensibly the irksomeness of con- 
straints imposed upon the colonial burgess by the ever 
potent prerogative of the governor and council. These and 
other considerations may have combined to keep the schol- 
arly country gentleman away from the halls of legislation in 
the busy little capitol of Williamsburg. It was no inconsid- 
erable journey, at that time, either. We learn from an act 
passed by the Assembly a few years later, regulating the pay 
of the burgesses, that it took five days to go from Fairfax 
County to Williamsburg, and four days from Staflford County. 
And the candidate was put to no little trouble and expense 
in securing his election. Colonel Washington, who proposed 
himself to the electors of Frederick County in 1758, ex- 
pended thirty-nine pounds and six shillings on the poll. As 
those were not the days of Local Option or High License, 
thirty-six gallons of wine, forty-three gallons of strong beer, 
and a hogshead and barrel of punch, were supplied to the 
enthusiastic constituency, and the candidate's personal friends 
had cider and dinner provided them.' 

George Mason was for many years a member of the Board 
of Trustees of the town of Alexandria, having been first 
elected to this ofHce at a meeting of the board in June, 1754, 
when a vacancy was created by the death of Philip Alex- 
ander. Colonel Mason was one of the first purchasers of lots 
when the town was laid out in 1749. It is probable that he 
built a house on the lot at the southwest comer of King and 
Fairfax streets, or one on the southwest comer of King and 
Royal streets, where he owned the quarter squares. The 
trustees began in the summer of 1754 to enforce the law 
which required those who had lots to build upon them or 

.> Sparks' '* Washington/' vol. ii., p. 297. 


forfeit the property. George Mason and George Mercer each 
bought one of these forfeited lots at this time.' 

In 1 761, we find Colonel Mason, with other members of 
the Ohio Company, writing to Governor Dinwiddie, then in 
London, asking his interest in securing their rights to the 
lands granted them. This letter is dated the 9th of Sep- 
tember, and is in these, words : 

** As we may expect a peace next winter, and have no doubt 
North America will be secured to the British government and 
liberty will then be granted to his Majesty's subjects in these 
colonies to settle on the lands on the Ohio, we the committee of 
the Ohio Company think it a proper time as soon as peace is con- 
cluded to apply for a grant of the lands intended us by his 
Majesty's instructions to Sir William Gooch, and have for that 
purpose sent over a petition to his Majesty and a large and full 
state of our case ; and have employed Mr. Charles Palmer, a 
man we are informed of great capacity and diligence, to solicit 
our cause, and to endeavor by all means to get us a patent in 
England. He will be directed to apply to our members in Lon- 
don, for their advice and assistance ; and as no person knows 
the affair better than Mr. Dinwiddie, nor can it be imagined any 
of the Company have such an acquaintance or interest with per- 
sons in power, let us beg you will please to exert yourself in get- 
ting us a patent by natural bounds, on the best terms possible ; 
for rather than be remitted to the government here, who from 
jealousy or some other cause have ever endeavored to disappoint 
us in every design we could form to settle and improve the lands, 
we will agree to any reasonable consideration for such a deed 
from England. But if this cannot be obtained that the most 
plain and positive instructions to the Governor of Virginia be 
procured on terms the most advantageous to the Company. 

" We are, Sir, &c. 

James Scott, 

J. Mercer, 

G. Mason, 

Thos. Ludwell Lee, 

Philip Ludwell Lee.*'" 

' "Colonial Alexandria,** chap, iv., v., by William F. Came, Alexandria. 
• •• Plain Facts," etc., Philadelphia, 1781, p. 120. 


The French war had interfered with the operations of the 
Ohio Company, and now their title was in dispute. They 
never succeeded in recovering their former prosperity, though 
the struggle was kept up until the Revolution altered the 
conditions of all parties. 

In 1762, George Mason was to suffer that memorable loss 
in the lives of most men, the loss of a mother. Mrs. Mason 
died the 13th of November of this year, leaving a reputation 
among her connections and neighbors for great prudence and 
business capacity, united to the charms of an amiable, 
womanly character. " She was a good woman, a great 
woman, and a lovely woman,*' was said of her with the par- 
donable pride of affection by the Rev. John Moncure, her 
friend and connection, and for many years her pastor. She 
appointed Mr. Moncure her executor, in her will drawn up 
the 25th of August, 1760, to which was added a codicil in 
November, 1762. It was produced in court by " John Mon- 
cure, Clerk " on the 14th of December in the latter year. 
Mrs. Mason*s will, which she drew up for herself, opens with 
the words : 

" In the name of God. Amen. I, Ann Mason of the county 
of Stafford, in the colony of Virginia, being at present in perfect 
health and of sound mind and memory, have thought fit, before 
age or infirmities impair them, to make this my last will and 
testament, etc. My soul I leave to God who gave it hoping for 
remission of all my sins through the merits and mediation of my 
Redeemer Jesus Christ." 

She gave to her son George Mason the ** land lying on \ 
Goose Bay in Charles County in Maryland," and also nine 
slaves whose names are enumerated, also her " largest silver 
salver." To her son Thomson Mason she gfave the follow- 
ing articles of plate : " My ring and castors, two salts, my 
soup spoons and all the rest of my silver spoons, large and 
small." She makes a bequest to one of her nephews, who 
must have been a favorite, leaving " to John Bronaugh the 


*r»j: I 


son of my sister Bronaugh of Fairfax County and his heirs 
forever five hundred acres of land lying in Loudon County/* 
Mrs. Mason then directs that two negroes each be purchased 
for her grandchildren Samuel Selden and Mary Selden, and 
she gives to the latter a large bay mare to be kept for her 
use, and also some articles of household furniture and table 
linen. She gives Mary Selden "a small silver cann," and 
all the rest of her silver plate not before disposed of is to be 
divided between this grandson and granddaughter. But it 
is enjoined that her " two small silver dishes be kept in the 
same form they are without change or alteration." All the 
rest of the estate not required to pay debts or legacies is to 
devolve to Samuel and Mary Selden, and if these are not 
needed for the above purposes, all the "stock of horses, 
cattle, sheep, and hogs shall be equally divided ** between 
these grandchildren, " and settled upon the lands where the 
negroes belonging to the said Samuel Selden and Mary Sel- 
den are respectively worked and kept for their use and bene- 
fit." The wives of her sons George and Thomson are each 
remembered by the bequest of a slave to be purchased for 
them severally. Mrs. Mason names her two sons with Mr. 
Moncure her executors. Hannah Hedgman and Helen 
Scott are two of the witnesses ; the latter was very probably 
the wife of the Rev. James Scott, who was a sister of Mrs. 

In a memorandum to her will Mrs. Mason makes the fol- 
lowing disposition of her daughter's portrait : 

" It is my will and desire that my cousin Frances Moncure, the 
wife of John Moncure, Clerk, take care of my daughter Mary 
Thompson Selden's picture now in my hall and give it to my 
grandson Samuel Selden when he comes of age, but if he should 
die before he becomes of age that then it be given to my grand- 
daughter Mary Selden." 

In the case of the death of the latter during her minority 
the portrait was to go to Col. George Mason. In the codicil 


to her will, Mrs. Mason makes it her '' earnest request that 
the mulatto wench named Nan Old Gate/' who had been '' a 
useful slave in the family, may not be sold or exposed to 
hardship/' and she wishes, if possible, that this old servant 
" may be allowed to live with my son George, who I hope 
will use her with humanity." No doubt she was well taken 
care of at " Gunston Hall " for the rest of her days. Mrs. 
Mason left some personal property to her grandsons George, 
William, and Thomson Mason, Jr., and to her granddaugh- 
ter Ann Eilbeck Mason. Her personal estate was appraised 
in Fairfax County, January lo, 1763, and amongst the list 
of things is one boat at Occoquan, showing that she still re- 
tained the estate and ferry at " Woodbridge," or received 
the benefits of it, though it was her son's property. In 1760, 
the same year that Mrs. Mason made her will, the Rev. John 
Moncure made his. He had succeeded the Rev. Alexander 
Scott as rector of Overwharton parish in Stafford County. 
Mr. Moncure was a Scotchman by birth, though of Hugue- 
not ancestry. He married Frances Brown, the daughter of 
Dr. Gustavus Brown, of Port Tobacco, Maryland, by his first 
wife, Frances Fowke. Dr. Brown styles himself in his will 
as " Laird of Wainside and House Byres and of Stone Mid- 
dleton, Scotland, and of Rose and Rich Hills, Maryland." 
Mr. Moncure appointed as the guardian of his children 
" George Mason, Gentleman," of whom he speaks as " my 
good friend." And he mentions in his will a negro girl as 
having been presented to his daughter Frances by her " God- 
father George Mason." * No letters of Colonel Mason writ- 
ten in 1762 or 1763 have been preserved, and there is nothing 
to witness of the grief that must have filled his life at the 
loss of his admirable mother. 

In 1764 his good friend Mr. Moncure died, and Colonel 
Mason, as the guardian of the orphaned children, the trusted 
friend and relative of the bereaved family, made the necessary 
arrangements for the funeral, writing to Mrs. Moncure the 
following letter on the occasion : 

' Data famished by the late Richard Moncure Conway, Virginia. 


GuNSTON, i2th March, 1764. 

Dear Madam : 

I have your letter by Peter yesterday, and the day before I had 
one from Mr. Scott, who sent up Gustin Brown on purpose with 
it. I entirely agree with Mr. Scott in preferring a funeral sermon 
at Aquia Church, without any invitation to the house. Mr. 
Moncure's character and general acquaintance will draw together 
much company, besides a great part of his parishioners, and I am 
sure you are not in a condition to bear such a scene ; and it 
would be very inconvenient for a number of people to come so 
far from church in the afternoon after the sermon. As Mr. Mon- 
cure did not desire to be buried in any particular place, and as it 
is -usual to bury clergymen in their own churches, I think the 
corpse being deposited in the church where he so long preached 
is both decent and proper, and it is probable, could he have 
chosen himself, he would have preferred it. Mr. Scott writes to 
me that it is intended Mr. Green shall preach the funeral sermon 
on the 2oth of this month, if fair ; if not, the next fair day ; and 
I shall write to Mr. Green to-morrow to that purpose, and inform 
him that you expect Mrs. Green and him at your house on the 
day before ; and if God grants me strength sufficient either to 
ride on horseback or in a chair, I will certainly attend to pay the 
last duty to the memory of my friend ; but I am really so weak 
at present that I can't walk without crutches and very little with 
them, and have never been out of the house but once or twice, 
and then, though I stayed but two or three minutes at a time, it 
gave me such a cold as greatly to increase my disorder. Mr. 
Green has lately been very sick, and was not able to attend his 
church yesterday, (which I did not know when I wrote to Mr. 
Scott ;) if he should not recover soon, so as to be able to come 
down, I will inform you or Mr. Scott in time, that some other 
clergyman may be applied to. 

I beseech you, dear madam, not to give way to melancholy re- 
flections, or to think that you are without friends. I know no- 
body that has reason to expect more, and those that will not be 
friends to you and your children now Mr. Moncure is gone were 
not friends to him when he was living, let their professions be 
what they would. If, therefore, you should find any such, you 
have no cause to lament the loss, for such friendship is not worth 
anybody's concern. 


I am very glad to hear that Mr. Scott purposes to apply for 
Overwharton parish. It will be a great comfort to you and your 
sister to be so near one another, and I know the goodness of Mr. 
Scott's heart so well, that I am sure he will take a pleasure in 
doing you every good office in his power, and I had much rather 
he should succeed Mr. Moncure than any other person. I hope 
you will not impute my not visiting you to any coldness or dis- 
respect. It gives me great concern that I am not able to see you. 
You may depend upon my coming down as soon as my disorder 
will permit, and I hope you know me too well to need any assur- 
ance that I shall gladly embrace all opportunities of testifying 
my regard to my deceased friend by doing every good office in 
my power to his family. 

I am, with my wife's kindest respects and my own, dear 

Your most affectionate kinsman, 

George Mason.' 

It seems probable that Colonel Mason was suffering at 
that time from his lifelong enemy, the gout, from what he 
says of his health in this letter. He gives testimony in his 
own will, written nine years later, of the affection he had 
felt for good Mr. Moncure. He therein says : " I give to 
Mr. John Moncure a mourning ring of three guineas value 
which I desire him to wear in memory of my esteem for my 
much lamented friend his deceased father." 

' Meade's " Old Churches and Families of Virginia/' vol. ii.» p. 201. 

^ . vit- 



George Mason's early church associations must have been 
with Overwharton pzirish and its two church buildings, 
" Aquia " and " Old Potomac," as they were called. And 
he may also have attended sometimes the ministry of the 
Rev, James Scott, Dettingen parish. Prince William County. 
This was the brother of the Rev. Alexander Scott, of Over- 
wharton parish. His wife, as has been said, was one of Colonel 
Mason's cousins, and a sister of Mrs. Moncure. He lived at 
his glebe on Quantico Creek, and officiated also in two 
churches, one at Broad Run and one near Dumfries. 

We first hear of George Mason in connection with parish 
affairs in 1749 when at twenty-four, in the year previous to 
his marriage, he was elected vestryman of Truro parish, 
Pohick church, in Fairfax County. There was some objec- 
tion to him then, it was said on the ground that " he did not 
reside in the parish, but this was overlooked." ' He was 
probably living with his mother at " Chappawamsic." The 
Rev. Charles Green was at this time the rector of Pohick 
church. Mr. Green was succeeded in Truro parish by the 
Rev. Lee Massey, whose third wife. Miss Bronaugh, was also 
a cousin of Colonel Mason's. The ministry of the former 
incumbent had lasted until 1765, and a list of the vestry- 
men of the parish was preserved by Washington, with the 
number of votes given for each one.* George Mason heads 

' Meade's " Old Cbuichd and Families of VirginU," vol. ii., appendix 11. 

' Sparks' " Life of Washington," appendix iv. At an earlier election in this 
lame year Colonel Hason received oio votes. 


the list of twelve members, with two hundred and eighty- 
two votes, while Washington comes third on the list with 
two hundred and fifty-nine votes. Daniel McCarty and 
George William Fairfax were also among the vestry of this 
year. Washington was in this same year elected vestryman 
for Fairfax parish, Alexandria. One of the old churches of 
Overwharton parish, Potomac church, half-way between 
Aquia Creek and Fredericksburg, was visited by Benson 
J. Lossing in 1850, and it was then almost a ruin.' He de- 
scribes it as '' more than half concealed by a thicket of 
trees, dwarf cedars, and brambles. The windows were now 
gone, so also were the pews and the pulpit. The roof, which 
was supported by columns painted in imitation of variegated 
marbles, had partly fallen in, but the Law, the Creed, and the 
Prayer upon its walls seemed almost as fresh as when the old 
Virginians worshipped there." 

Aquia church, which is not far from the former, when 
visited by Bishop Meade in 1837, is thus described": 
"The church had a noble exterior, being a high two- 
story house, of the figure of the cross. On its top was an 
observatory, which you reached by a flight of stairs lead- 
ing from the gallery, and from which the Potomac and 
Rappahannock rivers, which are not far distant from each 
other, and much of the surrounding country, might be seen." 
The names of the rector, the Rev. John Moncure, and his 
vestry for the year 1757, are still to be seen painted on the 
panels of the gallery. The vestry included John Mercer, of 
Marlboro*, John Lee, William Mountjoy, Thomas and John 
Fitzhugh, Peter Daniel, and Travers Cooke. Mrs. Wood, a 
daughter of the Rev. Mr. Moncure, in her account of her 
parents, contributed to Bishop Meade's chronicles, tells of 
the experiences of the young couple in their country parish 
where they lived their early married life in quite Arcadian 
simplicity and bliss. During their first year in the parish, 

' Potter* s American Monthly, March, 1875 : " The Historic Buildings of 

* ** Old Churches and Families of Virginia," vol. ii., p. 203. 


which was some time earlier than 1750, when Mr. Moncure 
officiated at the marriage of George Mason, they knew few 
persons, though the Masons doubtless had not neglected 
them. But soon after, adds Mrs. Wood, " the neighboring 
gentry found out the value of their minister and his wife, 
and contended for their society by soliciting visits and 
making them presents of many comforts. Frequently these 
grandees would come in their splendid equipages to spend a 
day at the glebe, and bring everything requisite to prevent 
trouble or expense to its owners — merely for the enjoyment 
of the society of the humble inhabitants of this humble 
dwelling. In the lapse of a few years, by frugality and in- 
dustry in the management of a good salary, these dear 
parents became quite easy in their circumstances. My 
father purchased a large tract of land on the river Potomac. 
He settled this principally by tenants, but on the most 
beautiful eminence that I ever beheld he built a good house, 
and soon improved it into a very sweet establishment." * Mrs. 
Wood goes on to describe the happy life of the good pastor 
and his family, which came to an end at last by the death 
of the former in 1764. The Overwharton parish register 
records the circumstance that George Mason was godfather 
to three of Mr. Moncure's children : Frances, who was bap- 
tized in September, 1745 ; and Ann, — Mary Mason, his sister, 
being one of the godmothers — and lastly John, the second 
son, who was baptized in 1747. Frances married Travers 
Daniel and Ann married Walker Conway.* Aquia church is 
in good repair at the present day, and many of the descend- 
ants of its old rector still worship there. 

Before proceeding in the chronological survey of Colonel 
Mason's life, it may be interesting to give some further 
account of the neighborhood in which he lived, tfiat we may 
picture, as far as possible, his social environment, and ascer- 
tain the names, if nothing more, of his immediate friends 
and associates. And materials are not wanting for a sketch 

> Ihid,, vol. ii., p. 201. 

* Ancestors of Moncure Daniel Conway. 


of his country home and the plantation life of which it was 
the centre, in the papers of his son. General John Mason. 
The James River and its ancient, historic seats, " Shirley," 
" Westover," " Berkeley,'* and " Brandon," and the many 
others which the annals of an earlier day celebrate as abodes 
of colonial wealth and hospitality, is better known to us, 
perhaps, in our visions of pre-Revolutionary Virginia than 
that other and northernmost of the four great Virginia 
rivers, the broad Potomac. Yet the latter, associated as it 
is with Washingrton and the Lees, and preserving on its 
banks ** Stratford," if " Chantilly " is no longer standing, and 
" Mount Vernon," if the birth-place of Washingfton at the 
junction of Pope's Creek and the Potomac has long since 
disappeared, is scarcely behind the older locality in objects 
of Revolutionary and colonial interest. And in our own 
day the Potomac has gained a new title to our veneration in 
its memories of Robert E. Lee, whose home and birthplace 
were both on its borders. But the names of neither Wash- 
ington, Lee, nor Mason are found to-day in the old mansions 
that once were theirs. And though " Gunston Hall " still 
stands on its high banks much the same as it was a hundred 
years ago, with a few exceptions, the old places that made 
up its neighborhood have now either gone to decay or 
entirely disappeared. 

An Englishman travelling in America at the close of the 
Revolution took note of the gentlemen who were then 
living on the Virginia side of the Potomac, not far from 
Alexandria or Belhavcn, as it was once called : " Mr. Alex- 
ander, General Washington, Colonel Martin, Colonel Fairfax, 
Mr. Lawson, near the mouth of Oquaquon; Colonel Mason, 
Mr. Lee, near the mouth of Quantico ; Mr. Brent (house burnt 
by the enemy during the war), Mr. Mercer, Mr. Fitzhugh, 
Mr. Alexander, of Boyd Hole and all Chotank ; Colonel 
Frank Thornton, on Marchodock ; Mr. Thacker Washing- 
ton, Mrs. Blair, Mr. McCarty, Col. Phil. Lee, of Nomi- 
ney." Our traveller grows eloquent over the beauties of 
the scenery, and says of the Potomac it " is certainly the 


most noble, excellent and beautiful river I ever saw, indeed 
it can be excelled by no other river in the universe." And 
he adds : '' The situations and gentlemen's seats on this river 
are beyond comparison or description beautiful." * A neigh- 
borhood very much the same as this one is described in the 
recollections of Judge Daniel whose fathers lived in the Staf- 
ford of George Mason's ancestry. And it will be observed 
how the same families were found for generations in the 
same spot, as in England. Raleigh Travers, from whom the 
Colonel Mason of 171 5 bought some of his land, was Judge 
Daniel's great-grandfather. He was said to be of the same 
family as Sir Walter Raleigh. One of the largest landed 
proprietors in Stafford, and a prominent planter and burgess 
of his day, he married the half-sister of Mary Ball, the 
mother of Washington. One of his daughters, Elizabeth, 
married Sir John Cooke, an Irish baronet; the other, Sarah, 
married Colonel Peter Daniel, of the " Crow's Nest," two or 
three miles from John Mercer of Marlboro*. Travers Daniel, 
who married Frances Moncure, was the only son of Colonel 
Peter Daniel. The nearest neighbors to Travers Daniel 
after John Mercer (whose son, the future governor of Mary- 
land, lived at "Marlboro"' in Judge Daniel's boyhood), 
to name only those most prominent, were John Hedgman, 
Thomas, William, and John Mountjoy, one of whose places 
went later into the Brooke family. The glebe of the Rev. 
Robert Buchan was not far off, and adjoining it, in the 
immediate vicinity of the church, was "Berry Hill," the 
residence of Colonel Thomas Ludwell Lee. He possessed 
another plantation on the opposite side of Potomac Creek 
called " Bellevue." One of his daughters married Daniel 
Carroll Brent, of " Richland," in Stafford County. After 
passing " Berry Hill," and crossing Potomac Creek, adds 
Judge Daniel, you came to the plantations of John, James, 
and Thomas Fitzhugh, the latter living at " Boscobel." 
Major Henry Fitzhugh resided near, at " Belle Air." Then 
came Samuel Selden, of " Salvington," who had married 

> Smyth's " Tonr in the United SUtes," vol. ii., p. 144. 


as his second wife Ann Mercer, and lastly " Belle Plaine," 
the estate of Gaury Waugh, and after his death, of his sons 
George Lee Waugh and Robert Waugh. All these places 
were in a "space of some eight or ten square miles."* 
Most of these families were connected by marriages between 
their members in successive generations. 

Very much the same circle of neighbors is to be met with, 
though our glance extends beyond it into Westmoreland, 
lower down the Potomac, as we read the " Journal " written by 
a young daughter of the Lees, who visited about among these 
country-seats soon after the Revolution." She has something 
to tell us of " Belleview " and " Berry Hill " as well as of 
" Stratford " and " Chantilly," the latter place made gay at 
that time by the fair daughters of Richard Henry Lee, one of 
whom had recently married Corbin Washington. The diary, 
a girlish chronicle of country merry-making, was meant only 
for the eyes of the writer's bosom friend — a daughter of 
Daniel Brent, of " Richland." The writer, while staying at 
" Bellevue," meets at church, old Aquia church, no doubt, 
" Mrs. Brook, Mrs. Selden, and Nancy," who are very civil 
to her and press her to dine at " Salvington." This " Nancy " 
was Ann Mercer Selden, who married John T. Brooke, of 
Stafford County, a twin brother of Judge Brooke, of 
Fredericksburg. Mrs. William Fitzhugh, of "Chatham," 
invites our young lady to go from there to the races with 
her. William Fitzhugh, the grandfather of Mrs. General 
Robert E. Lee, lived later at " Ravensworth," in Fairfax 
County. While in Westmoreland, " Bushfield " is visited, 
the home of John Augustine Washington, one of General 
Washington's brothers. His daughter, " Milly," then a 
young belle, marries later Thomas Lee, a son of Richard 
Henry Lee. One day they dine at " Lee Hall," the whole 
pleasure-loving party, whose vivacious life is photographed 
in the little volume under review. At " Lee Hall " lived 
Richard Lee, the uncle of " Light-Horse Harry," whose 

^ •* Old Churches and Families of Virginia," vol. ii., p. 204. 
* " Journal of a Young Lady of Virginia," Baltimore, 1871. 


father's place, " Leesylvania," was ^Iso on the Potomac, a 
few miles above Dumfries. " Blenheim,** the home of Wil- 
liam Washington, one of General Washington*s nephews, is 
included in this catalogue of country-seats, with " Menokin *' 
(Manokin), on the Rappahannock, the residence of Francis 
Lightfoot Lee; "Marmion,** one of the McCarty places, 
and " Peccatone,*' the home of the Turbervilles. Other 
country-seats in the Northern Neck were "Nomini,** on 
the Potomac, below " Stratford,** the residence of Robert 
Carter, called Counsellor Carter ; and on the Rappahannock, 
" Sabine Hall,*' the home of Landon Carter ; " Mount Airy,** 
the Tayloe place ; " Port Tobago,** which was part of the 
large tract of land patented by the gallant Sir Thomas 
Lunsfordy and which came into the Lomax family through 
the marriage of Elizabeth Wormeley, daughter of Catherine 
Lunsford to John Lomax ; " Blandfield,** the Beverley place, 
and " Rosegill,** the seat of the Wormeleys. Robert Carter 
owned land also in Prince William County, as did Colonel 
John Tayloe, who was also a member of the council, and 
these were both friends and correspondents of George 
Mason. In the sketch of his grandfather by Benjamin 
Ogle Tayloe, mention is made of the fashionable race meet- 
ings in Alexandria between 1750 and 1770. Colonel Byrd, 
of " Westover,'* was with Colonel Tayloe at the head of the 
turf in Virginia. Colonel Tasker, of Maryland, son of Presi- 
dent Tasker, with his famous " Selima,** beat them both, how- 
ever, in 1752, but a few years later Colonel Tayloe*s " Yorick ** 
was not to be excelled.* 

One receives the impression in reading of colonial Virginia 
that all the world lived in country-houses, on the banks of 
rivers. And the Virginia world did live very much in this 
way. In Smyth*s enumeration of gentlemen's seats on the 
Potomac, it will be noticed that Mr. Alexander is named as 
of "Boyd Hole and all Chotank.*' Elsewhere Smyth says: 
" After we had passed this noble river [the Potomac] we en- 

^ " In Memoriam Benjamin Ogle Tayloe," Washington, 1872. (Privately 


tered one of the most agreeable as well as respectable settle- 
ments In Virginia, named Chotank." And he goes on to 
tell us that George Washington, of whom by the way as a 
loyal Briton he has a very poor opinion, was bom in Cho- 
tank. In General Washingfton*s will he leaves certain sou- 
venirs "to the acquaintances and friends " of his "juvenile 
years," Lawrence and Robert Washing^ton of Chotank. The 
original estate that went by this name had belonged to the 
Withers family and was devised by will in 1698 to one of the 
name in England, William Withers, private secretary to Gov- 
ernor Dinwiddle. He came to Virginia in 1754 to find that 
Chotank had been sold by the daughter of John Withers, 
from whom he should have inherited it, to Augustine Wash- 
ington and been left \yy him to his son Samuel. A lawsuit of 
course followed, which resulted in the Washingtons retaining 
Chotank after paying a considerable sum to William With- 
ers.' The name Chotank, however, came to be applied to a 
whole neighborhood, though it is used here also at different 
periods in a somewhat elastic sense. George Fitzhugh, writ- 
ing of Chotank in 1861 says: "The neighborhood lies on the 
Potomac and takes its name from a little creek of some two 
miles in length. When we first remember the place the 
creek and all its tributaries were included within the farms 
of Richard Stuart of * Cedar Grove,* Needham L. Washing- 
ton of ' Waterloo,' and Henry Fitzhugh of ' Bedford.* ** 

But Chotank in its larger signification embraced, according 
to Fitzhugh, all " the country on the Virginia side of the 
Potomac, beginning ten miles below Chotank Creek, and 
extending up the river about forty miles to Occoquhan 
Creek, and out from the river a distance about five miles.** * 
It was, adds this writer, the tract of a hundred thousand 
acres settled by the cavaliers of 165 1, the right to and rents 
of which William Fitzhugh wished to buy out from Lord 
Fairfax. The opposite shore of Maryland was also, by cour- 
tesy, included in Chotank, the river in those earlier years 

* ** Dinwiddle Papers," vol. i., p. 441. Note by the Editor. 

• DeBovfs Review^ vol. xxx., p. 77. 


uniting instead of separating the two colonies. This fellow 
ship between the borderers on both shores of the Potomac 
reached down into Colonel Mason's day, marriages being 
common, as Fitzhugh notes, between the two communities. 
And it is observable that both Geoi^e and Thomson Mason 
married Maryland wives. George Fitzhugh, himself a " Cho- 
tanker," as he boasted, writes of the people of this section 
that they preserved unimpaired, in his day, the characteris- 
tics of their progenitors : " They are the same people in 
disposition, manners, temper, and blood, that they were two 
hundred years ago." Mrs. Geoi^e N. Grymes, a grand- 
daughter of George Mason, and Daingerfield Lewis of " Mar- 
mion," a nephew of Washington, were two of the oldest 
living Chotankers in 1861. And the Alexanders were repre- 
sented there by Gustavus B. Alexander who lived at " Cale- 
don " on the Potomac River near Chotank Creek, on land 
belonging to them from the earliest settlement of the coun- 
try. Dr. Abram Barnes Hooe belonged at this time to 
Chotank, and several branches of the Washington family had 
lived there, among whom, at the time of the Revolution, was 
Samuel Washington, a brother of Geoi^e Washington. 

The ancestors of Colonel William Washington of the 
Revolution, so famous in the Southern campaign, lived at 
" Hilton ." on Chotank Creek. Bailie Washington, his father, 
was a friend of Thomson Mason's, and named by him one of 
the executors of his will. Among those who came to Cho- 
tank after the earliest settlement, Fitzhugh names the Mas- 
seys, a Huguenot family, and still later the Grymes and 
Lewis families. Lawrence Lewis, a nephew of Washing- 
ton's lived at " Woodlawn," a few miles from " Mount Ver- 
non," and the house, though it has passed into the hands of 
strangers, still remains a landmark of the olden time. The 
Stuarts, a Jacobite family, who followed the elder Pretender, 
fled from Scotland to Chotank in 171 5. Dr. David Stuart of 
" Hope Park " and " Ossian Hall " married the widow Custis, 
daughter-in-law of Mrs. Washington. Other families in 
Fairfax County were the Fairfaxes at " Belvoir," the Chi- 


chesters at " Newingrton," and the Wests. Hugh West is 
enumerated with the Alexanders, Fairfaxes, and Lawrence 
Washingrton in the act incorporating Alexandria in 1748, and 
the town was built on land of Hugh West and John and 
Philip Alexander. One family of the Wests in Virginia 
is descended from a brother of Lord Delaware whose family 
name it was. Among the Fitzhughs who lived in this neigh- 
borhood in George Mason's day, was his cousin Col. Wil- 
liam Fitzhugh, a son of George Fitzhugh and Mary Mason. 
Col. William Fitzhugh married Martha Lee, and left but one 
son, George Lee Fitzhugh. Colonel Fitzhugh was an officer 
in the French and Indian war, and removed before the 
Revolution to Maryland, where he had a beautiful estate, 
" Rousby Hall," in Calvert County. He was a friend and 
correspondent of General Washington. And he was prob- 
ably a frequent visitor at " Gunston Hall." Another neigh- 
bor and friend of Colonel Mason *s was Colonel Blackburn of 
" Rippon Lodge," near Dumfries. He married a cousin of 
George Mason, a daughter of the Rev. James Scott, pastor 
of the church in Prince William. One of his daughters be- 
came the wife of Bushrod Washington. 

On the James, the Appomattox, the Rappahannock, and 
the Potomac, with their creeks and bays, clustered these early 
Virginians, at a period when, as has been said, the rivers 
were Virginia's highways, like the canals of Venice. Of the 
region which has been described as " Chotank " an enthusi- 
astic visitor there published his " recollections " in 1834, in 
the time-honored Gazette of Alexandria. The writer begins 
by wishing the land " from the Pasbytansy swells to the 
Neck levels," peace in all its borders. He recalls the happy 
days and nights spent among ** the hills and flats, the forests 
and swamps of old Chotank — the ardent fox-hunt with 
whoop and hallo and winding horn," the houses with their 
cool porticos shaded by the Lombardy poplar, " the proper 
tree, let them say what they will, to surround a gentleman's 
mansion," with its old-fashioned stateliness and grace. The 
breeze on the height, the white sails of the vessels seen 


through the trees on the bank, to be traced up and down as 
far as the eye can reach, the " slopes of the fields in Mary- 
land cultivated to the water's edge, fill up a picture surpass, 
ingly beautiful." These recollections go back fifteen or 
twenty years, but even in 1834 a change had come to Cho- 
tank, according to this writer : " The ancient seats of gen- 
erous hospitality are still there, but their former possessors, 
so free of heart, so liberal, and blessed with all the means of 
being free and liberal, where are they ? " * Yet, though times 
had changed somewhat, the sons of the old magnates still 
lived, for the most part, on their fathers' lands, and the 
** merry Chotankers " led scarcely less easy, hospitable lives 
than in the earlier days. Down to George Fitzhugh's time in 
1 861, before the great cataclysm of the War between the 
States, with its radical results to the South in breaking up 
the foundations of its old social system, Virginia and Cho- 
tank remained indeed, in all essentials, much the same as of 

The recollections of George Mason's son. General John 
Mason, written in old age, preserve some account of the 
" Gunston Hall " neighborhood as it was in his boyhood and 
youth, and give us welcome glimpses into the patriot's house- 
hold. He describes '' Gunston Hall " as situated '' about four 
miles from the great public road from North to South, by 
which all communication in those days from North to South, 
or one end of the Union to the other, was held ; for there 
was no western country in those days, and no steamboats. 
At that time all the best families of the State were located 
on the tide-waters of the rivers. Great hospitality reigned 
everywhere, and besides the social and friendly intercourse 
of the immediate neighborhood, the habit was for families 
who were connected or on friendly terms to visit each other 
and spend several days or weeks at the respective mansions, 
in a circuit of fifty or a hundred miles. And, moreover, it 
was the habit for travellers of distinction to call and pass a 
night or several days at the houses of the Virginia gentlemen 

' Southern Literary Messenger^ vol. i., p. 43. 


near the public roads. And during the Revolutionary war 
particularly, the officers of the different army corps passing \ , 
from North to South, knowing how welcome they would \ 
always be, very often took up their quarters at these houses 
for a night at least and sometimes for some days. From my 
earliest days I saw all these visitors at my father's house. 
His neighborhood was an excellent one in those times, and 
he was, as I can affirm with truth, greatly beloved and ad- 
mired by it. 

" Our nearest neighbor was Mr. Cockburn, living within 
one mile. He was an English gentleman from Jamaica, 
who had settled here to enjoy life, and had married a Miss 
Bronaugh, a relation of my father's (before my memory). 
He was an excellent man, of some singular traits too. And 
his wife, with fine talents, was one of the best women and 
the most notable housekeeper in the world. They made a 
part of our family, and the children of our family — they had 
no children — made a part of theirs by the most intimate and 
constant intercourse. The household establishment at my 
father's was conducted with great regularity and system, 
and I believe though large and expensive, [here the pen- 
cilled manuscript is illegible,] of my revered parents while 
my mother lived. After her death, my sisters being young 
and housekeepers employed, the interior [establishment] I 
presume was not conducted with so much regularity. My 
father being an active politician and decided in his opposi- 
tion to the measures of the mother country, his house was 
frequented by the leading men of the State. Among the 
first things I can remember were discussions and conversa- ' 
tions upon the high-handed, tyrannical conduct of the king-^ 
towards his colonial subjects in this country ; for in those 
days the government was designated by the name of the 
king in all conversations. And so universal was the. idea 
that it was treason and death to speak ill of the king that I 
even now remember a scene in the garden at Springfield 
[the Cockburn place] when my father's family were spending 
the day there on a certain Sunday when I must have been 


very small. Several of the children having collected in the 
garden, after hearing in the house among our elders many 
complaints and distressing forebodings as to this oppressive 
course towards our country, we were talking the matter over 
in our own way and I cursed the kingy but immediately 
begged and obtained the promise of the others not to tell on 
me." This little incident gives one a graphic impression of 
the power the monarchical idea must have had over our 
forefathers — as indeed it was then dominant throughout the 
civilized world — when a little child could be thus afraid of 
committing high treason ! 

It is related of Martin Cockburn, George Mason's friend 
and neighbor, that it was while travelling in this country, a 
youth of eighteen, with his father that he met Miss Bronaugh 
and fell in love with her. His father promised that if he 
would wait until he was of age he should have his bride. 
The three years of probation over, the lover returned to 
claim the lady, but finding that she could not be prevailed 
on to go so far from her family as the West Indies, he pur- 
chased a place near her relatives in Virginia, where he and 
his wife lived in the quiet enjoyment of rural life to an ad- 
vanced age. The Rev. Lee Massey, his brother-in-law, said 
of Mr. Cockburn and his wife that they were the only couple 
he believed who had lived fifty years together without a 
moment's disturbance of their domestic harmony, so entire 
was their mutual affection. Martin Cockburn was a fine 
scholar, as well as a courteous and amiable gentleman, and 
no doubt was a most congenial neighbor to the studious 
planter at Gunston. It will be seen that on the questions at 
issue with the mother country their sympathy was complete. 
It was a nephew of Martin Cockburn who, as an admiral in 
the British navy, led the fleet of England against America 
in the war of 1812. But to return from this digression to the 
Mason manuscript : 

'' There being but few public schools in the country in those 
days, my father, as was the case with most of the gentlemen of 


landed estates in Virginia, kept a private tutor for the education 
of his family. And the Revolutionary war occurring, and all of 
the tide-water country of that State being invaded, harassed, and 
plundered from time to time by the enemy, while most of the 
children of this family were yet under age, it made it very diffi- 
cult to arrange for their education. I believe none of them were 
sent from home for that purpose but myself and my brother 
Thomas, who, being the youngest sons, were approaching to 
manhood about the conclusion of that war. We were both sent 
about that time to an academy in Stafford County, Virginia, kept 
by the Rev. Mr. Buchan, a Scotchman by birth, then the rector 
of two adjoining parishes in Stafford, one of which was in the 
lower part of the county on Potomac Creek [Potomac church] 
and the other in the upper part of the county on Aquia Creek 
[Aquia church], at which he preached on alternate Sundays. He 
enjoyed in the right of his curacy and lived on the glebe of the 
lower parish. There the academy was kept. He was a pious 
man and a profound classical scholar. We remained with him 
about two years. I was then sent to a Mr. Hunter, a Scotchman 
also, and quite a recluse, who kept a small school in a retired 
place in Calvert County, Maryland. I was sent there to study 
mathematics, in which Mr. Hunter was well versed. I remained 
something less than a year at this school. Thomas was about 
the same time removed to an academy in Fredericksburg, Vir- 
ginia, where he remained about two years. The private tutors 
in my father's family, as far back as I can remember, were first a 
Mr. McPherson, of Maryland, next a Mr. Davidson, and then a 
Mr. Constable, of Scotland. Both of the two last were especially 
engaged in that country to come to America (as was the practice 
in those times with families who had means) by my father to live 
in his house and educate the children. I remember that I was 
so small when the first of these three gentlemen took charge of 
the school that I was permitted to be rather an occasional visitor 
than a regular attendant. The tutoress of my sisters was a Mrs. 
Newman. She remained in the family for some time." 

Another unfinished manuscript of General Mason's pre- 
serves for us some details of the plantation life at " Gunston 
Hall,'* with a brief description of the house and grounds : 


" Gunston Hall is situated on a height on the right bank of the 
Potomac river within a short walk of the shores, and command- 
ing a full view of it, about five miles above the mouth of that 
branch of it on the same side called the Occoquan. When I can 
first remember it, it was in a state of high improvement and care- 
fully kept. The south front looked to the river ; from an elevated 
little portico on this front you descended directly into an exten- 
sive garden, touching the house on one side and reduced from 
the natural irregularity of the hill top to a perfect level platform, 
the southern extremity of which was bounded by a spacious walk 
running eastwardly and westwardly, from which there was by the 
natural and sudden declivity of the hill a rapid descent to the 
plain considerably below it. On this plain adjoining the margin 
of the hill, opposite to and in full view from the garden, was a 
deer park, studded with trees, kept well fenced and stocked with 
native deer domesticated. On the north front by which was the 
principal approach, was an extensive lawn kept closely pastured, 
through the midst of which led a spacious avenue, girded by long 
double ranges of that hardy and stately cherry tree, the common 
black heart, raised from the stone, and so the more fair and uni- 
form in their growth, commencing at about two hundred feet from 
the house and extending thence for about twelve hundred feet ; the 
carriage way being in the centre and the footways on either side, 
between the two rows, forming each double range of trees, and 
under their shade. 

" But what was remarkable and most imposing in this avenue 
was that the four rows of trees being to be so alligned as to 
counteract that deception in our vision which, in looking down 
long parallel lines makes them seem to approach as they 
recede ; advantage was taken of the circumstance and another 
very pleasant delusion was effected. A common centre was 
established exactly in the middle of the outer doorway of the 
mansion, on that front, from which were made to diverge at 
a certain angle the four lines on which these trees were planted, 
the plantation not commencing but at a considerable distance 
therefrom (about two hundred feet as before mentioned) and so 
carefully and accurately had they been planted, and trained and 
dressed in accordance each with the others, as they progressed in 
their growth, that from the point described as taken for the 


common centre, and when they had got to a great size, only the 
first four trees were visible. More than once have I known my 
father, under whose special care this singular and beautiful 
display of trees had been arranged and preserved, and who 
set great value on them, amuse his friends by inviting some 
gentleman or lady (who visiting Gunston for the first time, may 
have happened to arrive after night, or may have come by the 
way of the river and entered by the other front, and so not have 
seen the avenue) to the north front to see the grounds, and then 
by placing them exactly in the middle of the doorway and asking 
'how many trees do you see before you ? ' ' four ' would necessa- 
rily be the answer because the fact was that those at the end of 
the four rows next the house completely, and especially when in 
full leaf, concealed from that view, body and top, all the others, 
though more than fifty in each row. Then came the request, 
' Be good enough to place yourself now close to either side of the 
doorway, and then tell us how many you see ? * The answer 
would now be with delight and surprise, but as necessarily, ' A 
great number, and to a vast extent, but how many it is impossi- 
ble to say !' And in truth to the eye placed at only about two feet 
to the right or left of the first position, there were presented, as 
if by magic, four long, and apparently close walls of wood made 
up of the bodies of the trees, and above, as many of rich foliage 
constituted by their boughs stretching, as seemed to an immeas- 
urable distance. 

'' To the west of the main building were first the school-house, 
and then at a little distance, masked by a row of large English 
walnut trees, were the stables. To the east was a high paled 
yard, adjoining the house, into which opened an outer door from 
the private front, within, or connected with which yard, were the 
kitchen, well, poultry houses, and other domestic arrangements ; 
and beyond it on the same side, were the corn house and granary, 
servants houses (in those days called negro quarters) hay yard 
and cattle pens, all of which were masked by rows of large cherry 
and mulberry trees. And adjoining the enclosed grounds on 
which stood the mansion and all these appendages on the eastern 
side was an extensive pasture for stock of all kinds running down 
to the river, through which led the road to the Landing, emphati- 
cally so called, where all persons or things water borne, were 


landed or taken off, and where were kept the boats, pettiangers 
and canoes of which there were always several for business 
transportation, fishing and hunting belonging to the establish- 
ment. Farther north and on the same side was an extensive 
orchard of fine fruit trees of a variety of kinds. Beyond this was 
a small and highly fenced pasture devoted to a single brood 
horse. The occupant in my early days was named Vulcan, of 
the best stock in the country and a direct descendant of the cel- 
ebrated Old James.* The west side of the lawn or enclosed 
grounds was skirted by a wood, just far enough within which to 
be out of sight, was a little village called Log-Town, so-called 
because most of the houses were built of hewn pine logs. Here 
lived several families of the slaves serving about the mansion 
house ; among them were my father's body-servant James, a 
mulatto man and his family, and those of several negro carpenters. 
'' The heights on which the mansion house stood extended in 
an east and west direction across an isthmus and were at the 
northern extremity of the estate to which it belonged. This con- 
tained something more than five thousand acres, and was called 
Dogue*s Neck (I believe after the tribe of Indians which had in^ 
habited this and the neighboring country), water-locked by the 
Potomac on the south, the Occoquan on the west, and Pohick 
Creek (a bold and navigable branch of the Potomac) on the east, 
and again by Holt's Creek, a branch of the Occoquan, that 
stretches for some distance across from that river in an easterly 
direction. The isthmus on the northern boundary is narrow and 
the whole estate was kept completely enclosed by a fence on that 
side of about one mile in length running from the head of Holt's 
to the margin of Pohick Creek. This fence was maintained with 
great care and in good repair in my father's time, in order to 
secure to his own stock the exclusive range within it, and made 
of uncommon height, to keep in the native deer which had been 
preserved there in abundance from the first settlement of the 
country and indeed are yet there [1832] in considerable numbers. 
The land south of the heights and comprising more than nine 
tenths of the estate was an uniform level elevated some twenty 

' Perhaps this is meant for " Old Janus *' an imported horse, described in the 
Am, Turf Register and owned by a gentleman in North Carolina at the time 
of his death. 


feet above the surface of the river, with the exception of one ex- 
tensive marsh and three or four water courses, which were accom- 
panied by some ravines and undulations of minor character — and 
about two thirds of it were yet clothed with the primitive wood ; 
the whole of this level tract was embraced in one view from the 
mansion house. In different parts of this tract and detached 
from each other, my father worked four plantations with his own 
slaves, each under an overseer ; and containing four or five 
hundred acres of open land. The crops were principally Indian 
com and tobacco ; the corn for the support of the plantations and 
the home house, and the tobacco for sale. There was but little 
small grain made in that part of the country in those days. He 
had also another plantation worked in the same manner, on an 
estate he had in Charles County, Maryland, on the Potomac 
about twenty miles lower down, at a place called Stump Neck. 

" It was very much the practise with gentlemen of landed and 
slave estates in the interior of Virginia, so to organize them as to 
have considerable resources within themselves ; to employ and pay! 
but few tradesmen and to buy little or none of the coarse stuffs' 
and materials used by them, and this practise became stronger 
and more general during the long period of the Revolutionary 
War which in great measure cut off the means of supply from 
elsewhere. Thus my father had among his slaves carpenters, 
coopers, sawyers, blacksmiths, tanners, curriers, shoemakers, 
spinners, weavers and knitters, and even a distiller. His woods 
furnished timber and plank for the carpenters and coopers, and 
charcoal for the blacksmith ; his cattle killed for his own con- 
sumption and for sale supplied skins for the tanners, curriers and 
shoemakers, and his sheep gave wool and his fields produced cot- 
ton and flax for the weavers and spinners, and his orchards fruit 
for the distiller. His carpenters and sawyers built and kept in 
repair all the dwelling-houses, barns, stables, ploughs, harrows, 
gates &c., on the plantations and the outhouses at the home ^ 
house. His coopers made the hogsheads the tobacco was prized 
in and the tight casks to hold the cider and other liquors. The 
tanners and curriers with the proper vats &c., tanned and dressed 
the skins as well for upper as for lower leather to the full amount 
of the consumption of the estate, and the shoemakers made them 
into shoes for the negroes. A professed shoemaker was hired 


for three or four months in the year to come and make up the 
shoes for the white part of the family. The blacksmiths did all 
the iron work required by the establishment, as making and re- 
pairing ploughs, harrows, teeth chains, bolts &c., &c. The spin- 
ners, weavers and knitters made all the coarse cloths and stockings 
used by the negroes, and some of finer texture worn by the white 
family, nearly all worn by the children of it. The distiller made 
every fall a good deal of apple, peach and persimmon brandy. 
The art of distilling from grain was not then among us, and but 
few public distilleries. All these operations were carried on at 
the home house, and their results distributed as occasion required 
to the different plantations. Moreover all the beeves and hogs 
for consumption or sale were driven up and slaughtered there at 
the proper seasons, and whatever was to be preserved was salted 
and packed away for after distribution. 

" My father kept no steward or clerk about him. He kept his own 
books and superintended, with the assistance of a trusty slave or 
two, and occasionally of some of his sons, all the operations at or 
about the home house above described ; except that during the 
Revolutionary War and when it was necessary to do a great deal 
in that way to clothe all his slaves, he had in his service a white 
man, a weaver of the finer stuffs, to weave himself and superin- 
tend the black weavers, and a white woman to superintend the 
negro spinning-women.VTo carry on these operations to the ex- 
tent required, it will be ^een that a considerable force was neces- 
sary, besides the house servants, who for such a household, a 
large family and entertaining a great deal of company, must be 
numerous — and such a force was constantly kept there, inde- 
pendently of any of the plantations, and besides occasional drafts 
from them of labor for particular occasions. As I had during 
my youth constant intercourse with all these people, I remember 
them all and their several employments, as if it was yesterday. 
As it will convey a better idea of the state of the family and the 
habits of the times, I will describe them all.'*' 

Unfortunately the manuscript ends abruptly just at this 
point. '* Gunston Hall," as has been said, was about four miles 

' There are said to have been five hundred persons on the estate, including the 
several quarters. And Colonel Mason is reported to have shipped from his own 
wharf at one time twenty-three thousand bushels of wheat. 


from the stage road, the public route between Richmond 
and Philadelphia. The old Virginia almanacs give the 
distances between the several stopping-places, towns and 
taverns, on the way. Dumfries and Colchester were both 
on this road, and the distance between them was eighteen 
miles, while from Colchester to Alexandria the distance was 
twelve Yniles. Dumfries received its Scotch name from its 
principal settlers, the Scotch merchants who made it the 
thriving little place that it long remained. Doubtless among 
them were some of the merchants of this nationality who 
had acknowledged their obligations to the County Lieuten- 
ant of Stafford, Col. George Mason of 1720. Large vessels 
came to the wharfs of Dumfries with the luxuries of other 
lands, for which they received in return Virginia tobacco. 
The latter was sent in such quantities, we are told, that one 
merchant alone in Dumfries, the agent for the firm of Morris 
& Nicholson, Philadelphia, built three large warehouses to 
contain his purchases.* This was Richard Graham who 
became a large landed proprietor in Virginia, Kentucky, and 
Ohio. His eldest son, George Graham, a lawyer in Dum- 
fries, married the widow of George Mason of " Lexington," 
Colonel Mason's eldest son. Thomson Mason practised law 
in Dumfries for some years, as did also his son Stevens Thom- 
son Mason. But while merchants and lawyers are to be in 
some degree associated with town life, even with them the 
plantation was usually the home, and the town was resorted 
to for business purposes only.V, With the planter, as can be 
readily understood, there was little occasion for leaving his 
estates when, as was the case at " Gunston Hall," the slaves 
were taught all needful trades, and the master's wines and 
broadcloth were imported from abroad with the silk dresses 
and jewels of the mistress. George Mason in his peninsula 
principality was a fair type of his class in colonial Virginia. 
With his village of negro artisans, his flocks and herds and 
broad, teeming fields, he led a busy life. And his wife with 
her spinning-women, knitters, and weavers, — and the domestic 

> Alexandria Gazette, Sept. 22, 1879. Article on " Old Families," etc. 


cares of the plantation, — must have fully shared his responsi- 

It is difficult too, at this day, to realize the caste feeling 
that then prevailed, separating the rich white proprietor 
from his poor white neighbor. The Rev. Devereux Jarratt, 
who was bom in Virginia in 1732, and was the son of a car- 
penter, gives a curious account of his own early years in 
this connection : " We were accustomed to look \iipon gentle 
folkSf as beings of a superior order," he writes. ** For my 
part I was quite shy of them, and kept off at a humble dis- 
tance. A periwig in those days was a distinguishing badge 
of gentlefolk, and when I saw a man riding the road, near 
our house with a wig on, it would so alarm my fears and give 
me such a disagreeable feeling, that I dare say I would run 
off as for my life." * The gentlefolks in their wigs, with their 
humble white neighbors bowing down before them, their 
white indented servants and negro slaves, had every temp- 
tation to pride and arrogance. V But the situation had its 
ennobling influences, and made of the Southern gentry the 
foremost champions of the Revolution. Burke noticed that 
as in the ancient commonwealths, among the Goths, and later 
among the Poles, the spirit of liberty is more high and 
haughty, where freedom " is not only an enjoyment but a 
kind of rank and privilege. In such a people the haughtiness 
of domination combines with the spirit of freedom, fortifies 
it, and renders it invincible." " 

Dogue*s Neck was long famous for its game, the native 
deer, turkeys, and wild fowl. And Colonel Mason was con- 
sidered one of the best shots and keenest sportsmen of his 
day. " General Washington, Governor Sharpe of Maryland, 
Colonel Fairfax, Colonel Blackburn, and other distinguished 
men, before and after the Revolution," says a writer in the 
American Turf Register "were often the guests of his hos- 
pitable mansion and associates in the hunt on his grounds in 
Dogue Neck, then, as now, remarkable for quantity and vari- 

* ** Life of Rev. Devereux Jarratt," p. 14. Baltimore, 1806. 

• *• Conciliation with America," March, 1775. 

• • 


ety of game, and his favorite rifle, along with the elbow chair 
of his study, are yet [1830] relics in the hands of one of his 
immediate descendants." * These relics, unhappily, are no 
longer to be found. In the collection of the Virginia Histori- 
cal Society is a pistol, once the property of Colonel Mason. 
It is said to have belonged originally to Captain John Smith, 
and is marked with the initials " I. S." In 1818 the " Rules 
adopted by the Proprietors, to be observed for the increase and 
preservation of the Game in Dogue's Neck," were published 
in the Turf Register ^ the proprietors being John, George, and 
William Mason, the son and two grandsons of Colonel 
Mason. "Gunston Hall" is about half a mile from the 
Potomac. Pohick Bay, put down on the modern coast- 
survey maps as Gunston Cove, is the sheet of water just 
opposite the Hall, and across this bay or cove stood the old 
Fairfax place, " Belvoir," on what is known as Fairfax Point. 
Four or five miles away, on still another point or peninsula, 
is ** Mount Vernon." 

At ** Belvoir " lived George William Fairfax, Colonel 
Mason's frequent companion in the deer hunts on Dogue's 
Neck. Like *' Gunston Hall," " Belvoir " was on a penin- 
sula, surrounded almost by navigable water. The tract of 
land consisted of two thousand acres, with its valuable 
fisheries, its handsome brick mansion-house — built some- 
what in the style of " Gunston Hall," as would appear from 
a description of it in the Virginia Gazette^ — its servants' 
hall and cellars, offices, stables, and coach-house, its large 
garden and valuable fruit trees. It was the scene of wealth 
and hospitality in the later colonial days, but the house was 
destroyed by fire, and its master an exile in England, during 
the Revolution. On the same peninsula with Colonel Mason, 
but beyond the Neck proper, lived his neighbors and con- 
nections the Cockburns at " Springfield," the Masseys at 
" Bradley " and the Bronaughs at " New Town." The 
Occoquan estate of Colonel Mason, " Woodbridge," where in 
later years he established one of his sons, was in Prince 

* Ameruan Turf Register and Sporting Magasine^ vol. i., p. 400. 


William County, opposite the picturesque little town of 
Colchester. And in Fairfax County, north of " Mount 
Vernon," about three miles from Hunting Creek, was 
" Hollin Hall," built for another son of Colonel Mason. 
One of the nearest and most intimate of the " Gunston 
Hall " neighbors was Col. Daniel McCarty, who lived at 
" Cedar Grove," between Pohick and Accotink creeks. His 
son, of the same name, married one of George Mason's 
daughters. The Chichesters, who also intermarried later 
with the Masons, lived in Fairfax County at " Newington," 
and were among George Mason's friends and associates. 
Y- " Gunston Hall," though no longer in the Mason family, 
has been well preserved, and the ravages of time, with the 
more fatal devastations of war, have so slightly affected it 
that it may be taken to-day as one of the best types of the 
Virginia colonial mansion. It is much superior to " Mount 
Vernon " in solidity, and in the character of its material and 
finish. The cellars are as substantial as when first built, and 
extend under the whole house. They consist of four rooms, 
with a passage-way between them. The wine-vault, op- 
posite the staircase leading up into the first floor, has been 
closed up. Here was stored the old Madeira, the favorite 
imported wine of the early Virginian, with native vintages, 
and the heavier beverages produced from the home distillery. 
A large oven is in one of these cellar-rooms, and in the others 
are alcoves, used in former days for keeping wines and other 
stores which it was desirable to place in their cool recesses. 
One of these cellars was used at one time as a winter dairy. 
The house has been freshly painted in recent years, and its 
bright-red brick walls with cut-stone facings at each angle, 
its steep roof and tall chimneys, present to the eye of the 
visitor a quaint and attractive appearance. From the front 
entrance, opposite the old road, there was, as has been 
described, an avenue of cherry trees, reaching to the gate, 
" the white gate," as it was called. Then an English haw- 
thorn hedge led up to the " red gate," which opened out on 
the public road. You enter the house on this side, through 


a square porch with four pillars and an arched doorway, by 
a flight of broad steps, the old free-stone blocks now cracked 
and uneven. This porch was once plastered, and remains of 
the old cement are still to be seen. On the front door also 
may be traced the mark on the wood where the old brass 
knocker, a lion's head, once rested. This was probably 
stolen during the late war. A window on each side of the 
door looks out on the porch, and both door and windows are 
broad and low, the latter having deep window seats. The 
wide, handsome hall, however, is high, and the general effect 
of the house on the first floor is airy and spacious. The hall 
is wainscoted and panelled in North Carolina pine, and 
the woodwork is elaborately carved — every door, window, 
and cornice. The wide staircase leading up to the second 
floor has a baluster of mahogany, also ornamented in the 
same manner. And the doors, it should be said, are likewise 
of mahogany. In the centre of the hall is a carved arch with 
a huge acorn as a pendant in the middle, and this is also 
elaborately carved. The hall opens out on a pentagonal 
porch at the river-front of the house, and on the left of this 
entrance is the drawing-room. Here the woodwork is ex- 
quisitely carved — doors, windows, and mantel, — the cornices 
almost reaching to the high ceiling. All this hand carving 
is reported to have been the work of convicts sent from 
England.' "The style of these decorations," writes John 
Esten Cooke, in his description of " Gunston Hall," " is said 
to be a combination of the Corinthian and the flower-and- 
scroll work of the old French architecture." 

The great wide fire-places of the olden time have been 
altered in conformity with modern ideas of comfort, 
and the superb mantel-piece that was once to be seen 
in the drawing-room has long since disappeared. On each 
side of the chimney in this room is a carved alcove reach- 
ing to the level of the cornices over the doors and win- 
dows. These alcoves, with shelves, held old china, silver, 

* " Historic Houses of Virginia. ** John Esten Cooke in AppUUm's Joummh 
April 4, 1874. 


and bric-a-brac. A space was left over the mantel, framed 
in the woodwork, to hold a mirror or a picture. The 
drawing-room was formerly handsomely wainscoted in 
walnut and mahogany, but during the Civil War much of 
the wainscoting was injured, and the walls have since been 
patched up and papered, unfortunately the old, rich, carved 
woodwork having been painted white to contrast with 
the dark papering used there. The woodwork elsewhere 
has been given a soberer hue more in harmony with the 
original coloring. The dining-room, as it was presumably in 
Colonel Mason's time, since it was so used by his descendants, 
opens into the parlor or drawing-roorm, and is of the same 
size. The wainscoting and cornices here are less elaborate, 
and on each side of the mantel is a deep closet instead of an 
alcove. The two corresponding rooms across the hall are 
separated by a narrow passage, and at the end of the latter 
was the back staircase leading into the second floor and the 
stairs leading down into the cellars. Both of these stairways 
have been closed up within recent years. The passage opened 
out on a little porch with an arched doorway, and this too 
has disappeared. Of the two rooms on this side of the hall, 
the one opposite the drawing-room was occupied by Colonel 
Mason and his wife, and was called, in the old Virginia par- 
lance, " the chamber.'* The other room was the " nursery " 
in the days of Colonel Mason's grandchildren, and in all 
probability it was used for the same purpose by the earlier 
Gunston household.' In both of these rooms are deep 
closets like those in the dining-room. 

Ascending the wide staircase in the hall, half-way up, over 
the first landing, is a window in the wall, corresponding to one 
over the front door. At the head of the stairs there are three 
arches supported on four pillars, one on each side against the 
wall and two in the centre. Between these middle pillars a 
lamp may be suspended. The arches and pillars are of dark, 

' It seems likely, however, that this room was the guest-chamber at one 
period, as tradition avers that Washington, Jefferson, Richard Henry Lee, and 
others of the eminent men of the time have slept in this room. 


old carved wood. The rooms on the second floor open on 
each side of a hall which runs at right angles to the hall be- 
low, and terminates at each gable-end of the house. These 
rooms are small and low-pitched, with dormer-windows and 
wide, low window seats. A steep staircase leads up from 
one of these rooms into the attics, where were kept, fifty 
years ago, old disused spinning-wheels and spinning-machines 
that had doubtless seen good service in colonial days. A 
round window at each end of the house lights this upper 
region ; and by a ladder-like staircase one ascends now to a 
sort of villa^tower placed on the roof for viewing the land- 
scape. This is a modern addition, scarcely in keeping with 
the old mansion, though the beautiful views of the river that 
it affords would almost reconcile one to the innovation. The 
tall outside chimneys at the Hall make a noticeable feature 
in its appearance, but, as has been said, the old-fashioned, huge 
fire-places and tall mantels that should be found with them 
have disappeared. On the river front of the house one 
descends the steps from the pretty pentagonal porch, with 
its carved red and white pillars and lattice-work, its benches 
on the four enclosed sides, the fifth being the doorway, into 
what was once a well-kept lawn. The porches on both sides 
of the house are embowered in fragrant rose-bushes, so ven- 
erable from their size that they look as though they might 
have flourished here a hundred years ago. A box-hedge, its 
bushes grown now to the stature of small trees, on either 
side of the path, leads from the lawn to what was called the 
" falls '* — terraces which formed the old garden as described 
in General Mason's reminiscences. And one looks down 
here, from a considerable elevation, on the beautiful river, 
on wood, and field, and pastures dotted with sheep, an alto- 
gether enchanting prospect. XWhite sails pass and repass 
on the blue sparkling waters, and it is not difficult in the 
stillness and solitude to imagine that the years have rolled 
back to the days of which we write. The old public road 
has long been disused, with its chariots and horsemen, mak- 
ing the long overland journey north and south, but the river 


is changeless, an immortal highway, though steamboats have 
superseded the slow barges and vessels of our forefathers. 
The railroad, that obtrusive element of modern civilization, is 
still four miles or more from " Gunston Hall,** and the steam- 
boat that takes the traveller from Washington to " Mount 
Vernon ** on its return goes into Gunston Cove, where you 
land within a short drive of the Hall. It is not the old 
landing used in Colonel Mason *s time, but it is very near it. 
Among the out-buildings at " Gunston Hall *' that yet re- 
main is the old school-house. And one may still drink at 
the venerable well-curb of ancient gray stone with its " old 
oaken bucket.'* 

" Springfield," the home of Martin Cockbum, is still 
standing, though its marble mantels and other interior em- 
bellishments are no longer to be seen. It is a long, low 
frame building; the rooms all on one floor, and most of 
them communicating, while they are divided by wooden 
panels instead of plastered walls. It was said that having 
lived in the West Indies, the master of " Springfield *' built 
his house after a fashion brought from his early home — and 
he would have it but one-story high for fear of earthquakes. 
In the little graveyard at " Springfield '* are two unmarked 
mounds which tradition points out as the last resting-places 
of Martin Cockbum and his wife. On the death of the 
childless pair " Springfield *' was left to Mrs. Cockburn's 
relatives, the Masseys ; and Mrs. Nancy Triplett, a daughter 
of the Rev. Lee Massey, was the last one of the family to 
live at " Springfield." ' At " Bradley,'* Mr. Massey*s pl^ce, 
the dwelling-house has long since disappeared. The grave- 
yard here is all that remains to remind one of its former 
associations. This little plot of ground is beautifully situ- 
ated on a slope of the hill overlooking Occoquan Bay, and 

' A great-nephew of Mrs. Triplett's sold the old house after his aunt's death, 
and with it many of the books, family portraits, and other interesting memorials 
of the Cockbums and Masseys. The diary of the Rev. Lee Massey, at this sale, 
came into possession of a gentleman in the neighborhood, but it cannot now be 


marble tombstones here mark the graves of the good pastor 
and his wife Elizabeth. "New Town," the old Bronaugh 
place, where Mrs. Cockburn and Mrs. Massey spent their 
girlhood, has passed away utterly ; the very name of it is un- 
known in the neighborhood at this day. And recent owners 
of the land have ruthlessly ploughed up the old graveyard, 
one of the old tombstones having been left leaning against a 
tree in one of the fields. " Cedar Grove," the McCarty 
place, like all those we have named, has gone out of the 
family of its original owners. It is beautifully situated on 
Pohick Creek, and is a low, rambling frame building, now 
much out of repair though still habitable. Its lovely water 
views, from its commanding position on high ground almost 
entirely surrounded by the creek, are its chief attraction 
now, but in former days, with its lawns, its orchards, and its 
shrubberies, it must have made a delightful residence. The 
family burying-ground at " Cedar Grove " is, perhaps, a half 
mile from the house, in a dense grove of oaks and poplars. 
Bending back the thick branches in this Druid-like solitude, 
and stooping over fallen trees, one finds three graves, with 
their gray, moss-covered stones, marking the spots where 
rest Dennis McCarty and his grandson, Daniel McCarty, with 
the wife of the latter, who was a daughter of Colonel Mason. 
Col. Daniel McCarty, the elder, the friend and contemporary 
of George Mason, was buried at " Mount Airy," another 
family seat of the McCartys. 

All that remains of the famous old town of Colchester 
are a few straggling houses, several of them showing 
marks of great antiquity, and here and there a broken 
wall with its tall outside chimneys. And turning to the 
beach one is brought back from the past to the present, 
for here, instead of the famous arches which reminded the 
English traveller of London, a railroad bridge is to be found 
spanning the Occoquan River. Gone forever is the old inn 
of colonial days, with its highly praised wines, and every 
other vestige of the old gay life of the last century. Col- 
chester is indeed a deserted village, with only its picturesque 


situation and its dim traditions left to interest the passing 
visitor. Directly opposite Colchester, in Prince William 
County, is " Woodbridge," the old Occoquan plantation, 
where the ferry was in former times. The railroad bridge 
now connects the two places, and the railroad station on the 
north side still bears the name of Woodbridge. A store and 
.two or three houses are found there now, though the old 
mansion-house seems to have disappeared. '' Hollin Hall," 
named by George Mason after the old Thomson place in 
England, is four miles from Alexandria, in Fairfax County, 
on what is known as the Accotink pike. The mansion-house 
at "Lexington" was destroyed a few years ago by fire. 
And this is the only one of George Mason's Virginia estates 
that remains in the hands of any of his descendants. Be- 
yond Mason's Neck, which is in Truro parish, and to the 
right or north of Pohick Creek on the Colchester road, is 
Pohick church. It is about five miles from " Gunston Hall." 
Very recently the old vestry-book of Truro parish, which had 
been unaccountably missing for about half a century, was 
found, and it affords valuable information in regard to the 
church and its vestry. 

It was in 1772 that the new Pohick, or Mount Vernon 
church as it was sometimes called, was built. The old 
church, as Bishop Meade tells us, was a frame building, and 
was on the south side of Pohick Creek, two miles from the 
site of the new church. The parish was founded in 1732, 
and the first vestry-meeting was held on the seventh of No- 
vember in that year. Dennis McCarty, whose grave lies at 
" Cedar Grove," was the first vestryman on the list. He was 
at this time twenty-eight, and died ten years later. The old 
church had been but three miles from " Gunston Hall," and 
the site is still pointed out. It is related that when the 
parishioners were called together to determine on the site of 
the new church, George. Mason, who was the senior vestry, 
man, strongly advocated remaining in the old locality, as the 
spot where their fathers had worshipped, and where many of 
their graves were to be found. His eloquent appeal to the 


sensibilities of his hearers proved convincing, it seemed. But 
Washington, who lead the opposition, argued in favor of a 
more convenient and central situation, and the meeting 
finally adjourned without coming to any decision. Before 
the day arrived, however, when the subject was to be 
definitely decided, Washington had made a survey of the 
whole ground, measured the distances, and marked down all 
the houses of the parishioners, and, producing his map, was 
able to give such cogent reasons for the change of site that 
his point was gained." VThe church stands midway between V ^^. ( , ^ /. 
" Gunston Hall '* and " Mount Vernon." The old vestry-book 
gives full details as to its construction. It was built on 5 r? i i 1^ A>C* 
ground given by Daniel French. The building committee -r / 

were George William Fairfax, George Washington, George "*^'*^*^ 
Mason, Capt. Daniel McCarty, and Edward Payne. We are \^ %)1^ 
told the size of the bricks, and how the materials of which 
they were made were to be mixed, so circumstantial are the 
old entries. On the death of Daniel French, George Mason 
was appointed his executor, and the contract for building the 
church was under his supervision. Washington was requested 
by the vestry to import cushions for the pulpit and a cloth 
for the desk, and one for the communion-table of crimson 
velvet with gold fringe. He was to provide also two folio 
prayer-books covered with blue Turkey leather, with the 
name of the parish thereon in gold letters. The pews of the 
church were disposed of to the parishioners on the 20th of 
November, 1772. ^Colonel Mason bought two, pews Nos. 3 
and 4, joining the south wall of the church. He paid for 
them fourteen pounds eleven shillings eight pence each. 
Pew No. 13 was taken by Martin Cockburn, and No. 14 by 
Daniel McCarty. This last adjoined the rector's pew. No. 15, 
which was vested in him " and his successors for ever accord- 
ingly." In the centre of the church, pew No. 28, adjoining 
the north aisle, next the communion-table, was bought by 
George Washington for sixteen pounds. No 29 was taken 

I " Old Churches and Families of Virginia,'.' vol. ii., p. 227 ) Sparks' 

"Washington," chap, vi., p. 106. 


by Lund Washington, but was afterwards bought from him 
by George Washington. In the vestry-book is the order for 
making the stone font. When the church was restored 
within recent years, nothing was known of this font, but it 
was found later in possession of one of the neighbors, who, 
in all ignorance of its sacred character, it may charitably be 
hoped, had used it as a horse-trough. It was restored to 
the church, and is preserved there as a relic. The rector of 
the church, in 1772, was the Rev. Lee Massey, George 
Mason's friend and connection. He had been a lawyer in 
his youth, and was induced to study for the ministry, which 
he adorned by his learning and ability, at the instance of his 
neighbors and personal friends, Washington, Mason, Fairfax, 
and McCarty, who wished him to become their pastor, and 
he went over to London to be ordained in 1766. Later, his 
infirmities obliging him to give up his charge, he studied 
medicine, which he practised, without fee, amongst the poor 
of his former parish. The names of the vestry of Pohick 
Church for 1773 have been preserved. George Washington 
heads the list, George Mason coming next, and among the 
rest were Daniel McCarty, Alexander Henderson, and Martin 
Cockbum. A description of. the old Truro parish church, as 
it appeared to an English traveller in the latter part of the 
eighteenth century, has been preserved. The writer, Davis, 
gives us also a glimpse of the neighborhood at this time. On 
the piazza of the country tavern he writes that he found '' a 
party of gentlemen from the neighboring plantations carous- 
ing over a bowl of toddy and smoking cigars." And he 

''No people could excel these men in politeness. On my 
ascending the steps to the piazza every countenance seemed 
to say, this man has a double claim to our attention, for he is a 
stranger in the place. In a moment there was room made for 
me to sit down ; a new bowl was called for, and every one who 
addressed me did it with a smile of conciliation. But no 
man asked mc where I had come from, or whither I was 


Our traveller then says of the scenery : 

" No walk could be more delightful than that from Occoquan 
to Colchester, when the moon was above the mountains. You 
traverse the bank of a placid stream, over which impend rocks, 
in some places bare, but more frequently covered with a odiferous 
plant that regales the traveller with its fragrance. [Could this 
have been mint, the herb of the Virginian's julep?] . . . 
After climbing over mountains, almost inaccessible to human 
toil, you come to the junction of the Occoquan with the noble 
river of the Potomac, and behold a bridge, whose semi-elliptical 
arches are scarcely inferior to those of princely London. And on 
the side of the bridge stands a tavern where every luxury that 
money can purchase is to be obtained at first summons ; where 
the richest viands cover the table, and where ice cooled the 
Madeira that had been thrice across the ocean. . . . About 
eight miles from the Occoquan mills is a house of worship, called 
Pohick Church, a name it claims from a run that flows near its 
walls. Hither I rode on Sunday and joined the congregation of 
parson Weems, a minister of the Episcopal persuasion, who was 
cheerful in his mien that he might win men to religion. A 
Virginian church-yard on a Sunday resembles rather a race-course 
than a sepulchral ground ; the ladies come to it in carriages, and 
the men after dismounting from their horses make them fast to the 
trees. But the steeples to the Virginia churches were designed 
not for utility but ornament ; for the bell is always suspended to 
a tree a few yards from the church. ... I was confounded 
on first entering the church-yard at Pohick to hear 

' Steed threaten steed with high and boastful neigh.' 

Nor was I less stunned with the rattling of carriage-wheels, the 
cracking of whips, and the vociferations of the gentlemen to the 
negroes who accompanied them." ' 

The eccentric Mr. Weems, Washington's imaginative biog- 
rapher, was never rector of Pohick church, though he some- 
times officiated there. Regular services ceased at Pohick 
after Mr. Massey*s incumbency, as the church in Alexandria 

^ Howe's " Historic Collections/' p. 355. 


had taken a number of its parishioners, including General 
Washington. Many of the old families had left the neigh- 
borhood after the Revolution, and then, for obvious reasons, 
this was a period of depression for the Episcopal Church, 
which was associated in many minds with the British 
supremacy. Pohick church and Truro parish revived at a 
later period, and services were held there with more or less 
regularity down to the time of the late war. When Bishop 
Meade wrote of the church in 1857, niany of the doors of the 
pews were gone, including those of Washington and Mason. 
Those of George William Fairfax, Martin Cockburn, Daniel 
McCarty, William Payne, and the rector's were still there, 
and the names on them legible. Benjamin Ogle Tayloe, 
writing in 185 1, tells of the fate of Washington's pew door. 
A friend of his, a few years before, sought it as a valuable 
relic ; " it was traced to an old negro's hovel, where it had 
been used as a hen-coop, but not found." The church, then, 
in i860 could not have been in very good repair, though it 
was habitable. The ravages of war completed the desolation 
of the historic edifice. It was held alternately as an oiit- 
post by the pickets of the contending armies, and the sol- 
diers, either for their value as relics or from sheer vandalism, 
carried off or destroyed all the interior work except the 
cornices and the roof. Floor, doors, and windows entirely 
disappeared, and the substantial brick walls, with roof and 
cornice, alone remained. 

Chiefly through the liberality of Mr. Theodore B. Wet- 
more, of New York, the church was restored in 1871. The 
roof was then found to be very much out of repair, but the 
walls so substantially built in 1772, a hundred years before, 
were as stout and strong as ever. Unfortunately the church 
was not remodelled on the old plan. The floor was laid en- 
tirely in wood, and the pews built in the modern fashion. 
The position of the chancel was altered also, so that the ap- 
pearance of the walls and cornice is all of the interior that 
remains the same. The tile floor, the high-back pews, the 
old-fashioned pulpit and reading-desk of colonial days are 

MyS SON *S ISLAND. 1 1 / 

all things of the past. The present rector is the first one 
that this old church has had for a period of over forty years. 
The last one of ante-bellum days was the Rev. Mr. Johnson, 
whose wife was a Miss Washington, of " Mount Zephyr," 
and he lived for some little time at " Gunston Hall '* with 
Mrs. Mason, the widow of Colonel Mason's grandson. 

Colonel Mason, like General Washington, was fond of 
buying land, and we find him in 1763 making purchases in 
Maryland. Two patents are preserved by one of his descend- 
ants of tracts in Frederick County, acquired by him at that 
time. One of them, containing 260 acres, bears date March 
25th, and is called " The Welshman's Conquest " ; the other, 
containing 510 acres, and dated June 24th, is called "The 
Cove." The books of the proprietors of the Northern Neck 
show that Colonel Mason, in September, 1767, had a re-sur- 
vey made of several of the tracts of land he had inherited in 
Fairfax County. And he also patented at this time a piece 
of waste and ungranted land on the Potomac, consisting of 
looj acres. The re-survey of the land patented by George 
Mason's father in 1724 showed that what was then supposed 
to be 250 acres was only 1 18. Another tract lying opposite 
Georgetown proved to contain sixty-five acres of surplus 
land, the deed of the old survey containing 650 acres, and 
the new deed embracing 705 acres. This land is described 
as " beginning at the upper side of the mouth of a small run 
called Rocky Run, opposite the middle of an island formerly 
called Anacostin, alias My Lord's Island, but now called 
Barbadoes." This island became Colonel Mason's property 
by a patent from Lord Baltimore, and is mentioned in his 
will as " Barbadoes." It is put down on Fry and Jefferson's 
map of Virginia as *' Mason's Island," but is now known 
again by its Indian name, though Anacostin is changed to 
Analostan. Both words are corruptions of the name of the 
Necostins, one of the early Indian tribes of this locality. 
Surplus land was also found by Colonel Mason's re-survey 
in a tract of his on the Potomac River below the falls. This 
was patented originally as 653 acres, but proved to contain 


672/ A curious bit of testimony has been preserved in 
connection with one of these land purchases, showing the 
power of George Mason's name at this time, in his own sec- 
tion, though he had not as yet come prominently before the 
public. In a suit where Charles Alexander was plaintiff 
against William Bryan and others defendants, in ejectment, 
it is said : 

'* George Mason being seized of Going's and Houseley's 
patents which interfered with each other, as Houseley's had 
been laid ofif prior to 1767, laid him ofif differently, and run him 
upon Streetfield. Thereby he purchased Streetfield on easy 
terms, for though Streetfield might have been otherwise held till 
this time, viz., 1767, the proprietors might have been disposed 
not to have any contention with an adversary so potent in mind 
and [wordillegible] as Col. G. Mason."' 

Evidently Colonel Mason had impressed "his neighbors 
as a person whom it was not expedient to go to law with. 

One of Washington's letters, written in 1767, makes men- 
tion of George Mason in connection with a land purchase he 
was contemplating at this time. Washington is writing to 
Capt. John Posey, who was in some financial straits, and 
having borrowed all he could from Washington, now pro- 
posed to borrow from Colonel Mason. But the latter would 
soon want his money again, and so Posey would be as badly 
off as before. " He tells you," writes Washington, " in ex- 
press terms and with candor that he is waiting for an oppor- 
tunity to make a purchase which, when accomplished, he 
must have his money again, giving you three or four months' 
notice. It is likely, therefore, that he may call for it in six 
months as in a longer time, because the distress of the coun- 
try and number of estates which are daily advertising afford 
great prospect of purchasing to advantage."* Capt. John 
Posey was one of George Mason's neighbors, and the latter 

' Virginia Land Registry Office, Richmond. 

* Old MSS. belonging to the Alexander family. 

• "Writings of Washington." Ford, vol. ii., p. 226. 


voted for him at an election for burgesses two years before. 
Gen. Thomas Posey, of this same family, was on General 
Washington's staff during the Revolution. The Poseys 
intermarried with the Thorntons of " Rumford," an estate 
in Stafford County, on the Rappahannock River. Major 
George Thornton, who served in the Stafford militia during 
the Revolution, "was at the bombardment of Marlboro*, the 
seat of Judge Mercer, on the Potomac." * And one of the 
Thorntons, it will be seen later, married a daughter of Colo- 
nel Mason. 

In 1769 George Mason seems to have come into possession 
of two thousand acres of land in the district of Kentucky, 
the land being due him for the importation of forty persons 
into the colony. Fifty acres constituted the head rights for 
each person, as established by the early Virginia law. The 
following is a copy of the land warrant for this tract. 

Land Office Warrant, No. 10. 
To the Principal Surveyor of any county within the common- 
wealth of Virginia. 

This shall be your warrant to survey and lay off in one 
SEAL, or more surveys for George Mason, of the county of 
Fairfax, Esq. : his heirs and assigns, the quantity of two 
thousand acres of land, due unto the said George Mason for the 
importation of forty persons, the certificates of which have been 
duly presented and received into the Land Office. Given under 
my hand and the seal of the said office on this 12th day of jUly, 
one thousand seven hundred and sixty-nine. 

John Harvie. ■ 

Washington's private journals for this period contain fre- 
quent mention of Colonel Mason's name. As he relates, 
though with undue brevity, "where and how my time is 
spent," we learn in some degree of Colonel Mason's movements 
also. A vestry meeting at Pohick church, which Washington 
attended on the 28th of November, 1 768, no doubt brought the 

' ** Virginia Cousins," p. 213, G. Brown Goode. 

* Mason County Historical Society, Maysville, Kentucky. 



friends together, and they must have discussed at this time the 
approaching election for burgesses. After a hunt with Lord 
Fairfax on the 29th, Washington spent the following day at 
home, and in the evening George Mason and Martin Cock- 
bum came over together from ** Gunston Hall " and " Spring- 
field," spent the night at " Mt. Vernon," and went with 
Washington to Alexandria where the election took place 
December ist. Washington and Colonel West were the suc- 
cessful candidates, and the event was celebrated by a ball, 
which they all attended, apparently. After dinner on the 
2d Washington returned to " Mt. Vernon," carrying back with 
him Mason and Cockburn and three other gentlemen. It 
was a pleasant, easy, hospitable life, friends meeting first at 
one house then at another for long visits of several days at 
a time. They rode to the hunt with the hounds on one 
day ; on the next, perhaps, they met at a vestry meeting or 
at court ; they had the occasional excitement of an election 
and its attendant festivities ; and they had, as yet, though 
political grievances sorely vexed them, no presage of the com- 
ing war, its hardships, and its glories. Colonel Mason made 
another visit to " Mt. Vernon " in April, 1769. Washington 
went to a meeting of the court on the i8th, and brought 
back several of his friends, George Mason among them. At 
this time the latter seems to have come on the business of 
settling with Washington the bounds of their adjacent lands.* 
The two following days were spent by them in the woods 
surveying, and after a morning together in the house, Colonel 
Mason went home on the afternoon of the 21st. The sub- 
ject of the non-importation resolutions which George Mason 
had prepared for Washington to carry with him to the May 
Assembly must have been a topic of their conversation at 
this time. And two days later George Mason was writing 
to his friend a final word on the subject. The Assembly 
having been abruptly dissolved, Washington was back again 

' A letter of George Mason to Washington in reference to this subject, dated 
the 9th of April, 1768, is extant, and at the end of it the latter has written that 
the lines were settled on the 19th of April, 1769. 


at " Mt. Vernon " sooner than he could have anticipated. 
On the 20th of June he went up to court, returning in the 
evening with several of his fellow-justices, Bryan Fairfax, 
Mr. Scott, and Colonel Mason. The latter remained two 
days at " Mt. Vernon," discussing, doubtless, the serious 
political outlook with his friend. In October Colonel Mason 
was again at " Mt. Vernon." Washington, on the 23d of 
this month, went to a sale of Captain Posey's land, which he 
purchased. Here he met George Mason, who, with his son 
George and other gentlemen, returned home with him. In 
the following March Colonel Mason visited Washington with 
Mr. Christian, spending a day and night at " Mt. Vernon." 
/There was a dancing-school in this year, 1770, for the young 
people of the neighborhood, and it met by turns at the dif- 
ferent country-places, or perhaps alternately at " Mt. Ver- 
non " and " Gunston Hall." Mr. Christian was the dancing- 
teacher, it would appear. Washington records on the 18th 
of April : " Patsy Custis and Milly Posey went to Colo. 
Mason's to the Dancing School." Martha Custis, the lovely 
young daughter of Mrs. Washington, was then about thir- 
teen years old. One day in July Mr. Christian and all his 
scholars came to the dancing at " Mt. Vernon.' V Early in 
1 77 1 we hear of the two friends, Washington and Mason, 
meeting at Colchester, January 23d, and going together to 
Dumfries on some law business. At night Washington went 
to see the play of " The Recruiting Officers," mngf pmljjjahly 
in company with Colonel Mason. Three weeks later they 
were again together at the court-house on this case. Thom- 
son Mason and James Mercer were the lawyers, and George 
Mason was one of the arbitrators. In the fall of 1771, 
Washington records a visit of his to " Gunston Hall." He 
set off, the 27th of October, " before sunrise with John Cus- 
tis for Colo. Mason's." After breakfast they went hunting 
in Mason's Neck, and killed two deer. They hunted again 
the next day, but killed nothing ; and on the 29th they went 
to the vestry meeting at Pohick church, Washington return- 
ing to " Mount Vernon " that evening. They were building 


the new church at Pohick about this time, and Washington 
and Mason must have met frequently at conferences of the 
Building Committee. In May of the following year Colonel 
Mason spent a night and day at '' Mount Vernon/* dining 
there on the 15th with his friend, Capt. Daniel McCarty. 
And on the 5th of June Washington " met the vestry at our 
New Church." * Washington frequently received additions 
to his fruits and flowers from his friend at '' Gunston Hall." 
In 1763 he tells in his journal of grafting cherries, apples, 
pears, and plums, the cherries and plums coming from 
Colonel Mason's, and the "Bergamy Pears and New 
Town pippins " also, the latter having had them " from Mr. 
President Blair." 

' Washington's Private Journals (extracts from the transcripts of Dr. Toner). 



1764-1 77i. 

The twelve years of British oppression which brought on 
the Revolution date from 1764, when in March of this year 
Parliament passed the Declaratory Act, asserting the princi- 
ple which was felt at once to sap the foundations of politi- 
cal freedom in the colonies, the principle of taxation with- 
out representation. By this act it was maintained " to be 
proper to impose certain stamp duties .in the colonies for 
the purpose of raising a revenue in America payable into the 
British exchequer." The Stamp Act itself, universally 
denounced by the free-spirited colonists, north, south, and 
east, was passed in the winter of 1765-6, to come into opera- 
tion some months later. At the May session of the Vir- 
ginia House of Burgesses in this year Patrick Henry thrilled ' 
the continent with his eloquence in his famous protest 
againt the Stamp Act, and " gave the first impulse," as was 
justly said by Jefferson, " to the ball of the Revolution." 
And Edmund Randolph rightly characterizes this era as an 
illustrious one in the annals of Virginia. 

" Without an immediate oppression, without a cause depending 
so much on hasty feeling as theoretic reasoning ; without a dis< 
taste for monarchy ; with loyalty to the reigning prince ; with 
fraternal attachment to the transatlantic members of the empire ; 
with an admiration of their genius, learning and virtues ; with a 
subserviency in cultivating their manners and their fashions ; in 
a word, with England as a mode) of all which was great and 



venerable; the house of burgesses in the year 1765 gave utter- 
ance to principles which within two years were to expand into a 

William Wirt in his life of Patrick Henry brings before 
us the prominent figures of this Assembly ; Richard Bland, 
the Virginia antiquary, who wrote the first pamphlet of the 
many that the crisis was to call forth on the relations be- 
tween the colonies and the parent state ; Edmund Pendle- 
ton, the profound lawyer and able statesman ; George 
Wythe, the elegant classical scholar and learned jurist, of 
whom Jefferson left a eulogistic sketch among his papers; 
Richard Henry Lee, ** the Cicero of the House," and Patrick 
Henry, its most persuasive orator. These were some of the 
eminent names that were to be enrolled later among Vir- 
ginia's leaders and law-makers in the new epoch that was 
dawning upon her. Jefferson had just attained his majority 
in 1764, and was at this time studying law under Wythe at 
Williamsburg and dancing with " Belinda " in the gay balls 
at the Apollo Room of the Raleigh tavern, so soon to be 
consecrated to sterner uses. The two brothers, George and 
Thomson Mason were not idle at this time. Thomson Ma- 
son's name will be seen among the signatures to the West- 
moreland Resolutions drawn up by Richard Henry Lee in 
February, 1765', in which the prominent citizens of West- 
moreland and the adjoining counties recorded their protest 
against the Stamp Act." There were a hundred and fifteen 
members of the association, including several of the Lees 
and Washingtons, with other names more or less conspicu- 
ous, among whom was Samuel Selden, Thomson Mason's 
brother-in-law. This is said to have been the first public 
association in opposition to the Stamp Act that was organ- 
ized in the colonies, and it antedated the meeting of the 
Virginia Assembly by three months. The justices of Stafford 
County in the following October resigned in a body rather 

' MS. History of Virginia, Virginia Historical Society. 
' Original in possession of the Va. Hist. Society. 


than execute the new law. They sent to Governor Fau- 
quier an address, which was written by John Mercer of 
Marlboro', in which they quote the motto of their county 
seal, from Magna Charta, " We will deny or delay no man . 
justice," which, they add, " we are firmly persuaded is incon- 
sistent with the Stamp Act." This paper is signed by Peter 
and Travers Daniel, William Bronaugh, John Alexander, 
William Brent, John Mercer, Thomas Ludwell Lee, Samuel 
Selden, Gowry Waugh, Thomas Fitzhugh of " Boscobel," 
and Robert Washington of "Chotank." These were all 
friends and some of them were connections of George Ma- 
son's and their noble act must have commended itself to his 
patriotic spirit. 

In the meantime Colonel George Mercer, while his father 
was taking this decided stand in Stafford against the 
Stamp Act, arrived at Hampton in the odious character 
of a stamp distributor. It is evident that he did not 
realize the condition of affairs or he would not have put 
himself in such a false position. A soldier by profession 
and not a politician, he had not entered into the merits of 
the case, and as he was coming over to America on business 
of his own, or in the interests of the Ohio Company, he 
undertook at the request of the Stamp Office commissioners 
to carry over with him the stamps intended for three of the y 

colonies. He was confronted by an excited mob at Hamp^ 
ton and only protected from violence through the influence 
of prominent gentlemen of the town. At Williamsburg he 
was met by several members of the General Court then in 
session, and required to say if he intended to enter on the 
duties of the office. They went with him to the coffee-house 
where the governor, most of the council, and other gentle- 
men were assembled, and here a crowd collected outside and 
could only be dispersed when it was known that Colonel 
Mercer would give an answer the next day at a stated hour. 
At five o'clock the following afternoon, according to promise, 
he met the citizens and the various prominent merchants of 
the colony then in Williamsburg, and engaged not to exe- 



cute the Stamp Act without the consent of the Virginia 
Assembly. He was then carried from the capitol to the 
coffee-house with great rejoicing and an elegant supper was 
given him. Music, drums, and horns, and the ringing of 
the bells demonstrated the popular satisfaction, while at 
night the town was illuminated. ' 

Colonel Mercer wrote to Governor Sharpe of Maryland 
on the loth of November saying that he had been 
entrusted with the stamps for Maryland and had prom- 
ised to forward them to Annapolis, but on his arrival 
in Virginia found he could not comply with his engage- 
ment He could not procure a conveyance for them at any 
price, and after all that he had heard of the reception 
of the distributors, he feared it would not be safe to trust 
them on shore at Annapolis without protection, and here in 
Williamsburg, he added, they were in no less danger. His 
duty to his royal master, he thought, obliged him to use 
every effort for their protection, and he had obtained per- 
mission to put them on the royal ship The Rainbow^ where 
they awaited Governor Sharpe's orders. This had relieved 
him from the most disagreeable commission he has ever 
undertaken, he writes. He dared not let any one know 
where the stamps were, and feared all the time an attempt 
would be made to force the discovery from him. Although 
the season was so far advanced, and he had not been more 
than ten days in America, he found himself " under a neces- 
sity of returning immediately to England."* And Colonel 
Mercer went back to London a wiser man no doubt, and 
concerned himself no more with troubled semi-political mis- 
sions to his irate countrymen. 

^ George Mason, as has been said, was not idle at this time. 
Though not in the Assembly, he was ready as always to help 
his friends there; and the Fairfax representatives, George 
Fairfax and George Washington, called on him for assistance 
at this crisis. And we find him making his protest against 
the Stamp Act, in the scheme which he drew up for altering 

« Campbell's " Virginia," p. 543. 

*MS. Letter, Maryland Historical Society. 


the method of replevying goods under distress for rent.' In 
it Colonel Mason explains the landlord's right by the common 
law, and he advocates very strongly the employment of free 
labor instead of slave labor, citing the experience of the 
Romans as an example and a warning to Virginia. African 
slavery at this time was considered by many as one of the 
grievances entailed upon the colonies by the mother country. 
Virginia had protested, as we have seen, more than once un- 
availingly against the system, and the crown had forced the 
slaves upon her. But in the lapse of years slave labor had 
become a part of the life of the State, and it could not be 
easily set aside. There was no question then as to its right- 
fulness, but among many thoughtful minds there was much 
doubt of its expediency. 

Letter to Col. George Fairfax and Col. George Washing- 
ton enclosing a scheme for replevying goods under distress 
for rent. 

GuNSTON Hall, 23d December, 1765. 

Gentlemen : 

Inclosed is the scheme I promised you for altering the method 
of replevying goods under distress for rent. I thought it neces- 
sary to explain fully the landlord's right by the common law, to 
shew that our Act of Assembly was a mere matter of indulgence, 
and that an alteration of it now will be no encroachment upon 
the tenant. The first part of it has very little to do with the 
alteration proposed, and only inculcates a doctrine I was always 
fond of promoting and which I could wish to see mbre generally 
adopted than it is like to be. The whole is, indeed, mucft longer 
than it might have been, but that you will excuse as the natural 
effect of the very idle life I am forced to lead. I beg you will 
alter such parts of it as either of you think exceptionable. 

If I had the Act of Assembly obliging our vestry to pay for 
the glebe &c, I would prepare a petition for redress, and get it 
signed in time. 

Wishing the families at Belvoir and Mt. Vernon all the mirth 

and happiness of the approaching festival, I am, Gentlemen, 

Your most obedient humble Servant 

G. Mason. ■ 

' Appendix ii. 

* Washington MSS., Department of SUte. 


As Colonel Mason in this letter speaks of the idle life he 
is forced to lead, it seems probable he was suffering at 
this time with the gout. The scheme he formulated for his 
Assembly friends was meant to obviate a difficulty that had 
arisen upon the passage of the Stamp Act. The law of Vir- 
ginia had allowed a debtor to replevy his goods under exe- 
cution by bond to pay the debt and costs with interest in 
three months. The act of Assembly which made this pro- 
vision Colonel Mason thought was not clearly expressed, 
and the method prescribed was somewhat impracticable. 
But he says : 

''This has not hitherto been productive of much inconven- 
ience, though contrary to the course and spirit of the common 
law ; the landlord may thereby be brought into' a court of judi- 
cature before he can get the effect of a just and legal distress, 
but in our present circumstances it will occasion manifest injus- 
tice. If the officer making a distress upon being offered security 
refuses to take a bond for want of stamped paper, the goods 
of the tenant must be immediately exposed to sale, and he 
deprived of the indulgence intended by the Act of Assembly. 
If the officer takes a replevin bond as usual, the landlord will 
lose his rent, the tenant then having it in his power to keep him 
out of it as long as he pleases ; for in the present confusion and 
cessation of judicial proceedings the landlord will not have an 
opportunity of applying to court for an execution when the bond 
becomes payable, or if he does the clerk will not venture to issue 
one. In either case there is such a hardship as calls for the inter- 
position of the legislature." 

Colonel Mason's mention of the glebe for which the 
Assembly was about to oblige the vestry to pay, recalls the 
fact that there was a division of Truro parish about this 
time. It had originally embraced Fairfax, Prince William, 
and Loudoun counties, but in 1749 Cameron parish, after- 
wards a part of Loudoun County, was cut off from it, and in 
1764 Fairfax parish was established, its vestry-book begin- 
ning in 1765. Its principal church was built in Alexandria, 


about the time of the construction of the new Pohick 

The meeting of the first American or Continental Congress 
took place in October, 1765, at New York, in which, how- 
ever, only nine colonies were represented. Virginia was one 
of the three colonies which did not send delegates. This 
was owing to the action of the executive in each case. A 
declaration of the rights and liberties of the colonies was 
drawn up at this Congress, and a committee was appointed 
to prepare addresses to the Commons, the King, and the 
House of Lords. The Virginia Assembly, to show its sym- 
pathy with the action of the Congress, drew up similar 
papers to be sent to the King and to the Houses of Parlia- 
ment. Colonel Mason's fourth son was born in the spring 
of 1766, the little boy whose earliest recollections were to be 
of the heated political discussions at " Gunston Hall " and 
" Springfield,*' calling forth his infantile bursts of treason, so 
vividly remembered in later years. The first of George 
Mason's political writings dates from this year, and attacked 
the theory involved in the Stamp Act, for though the ob- 
noxious measure had been repealed, the principle was still 
asserted by Parliament. The patriots throughout the coun- 
try at this time were writing letters and pamphlets stating 
the case between Great Britain and the colonies, and advo- 
cating this and that remedy for their grievances. The 
celebrated " Farmer's Letters," by John Dickinson, of Penn- 
sylvania, were attracting much attention in England and 
America : and Arthur Lee, while in London in 1769, wrote 
" The Monitor's Letters " in defence of his native land. His 
brother, Richard Henry Lee, addressed the ** good people of 
Virginia " as " A Virginia Planter," explaining the injustice 
of the Stamp Act and the evils it would entail on the colo- 
nists if not stoutly resisted. In 1766 Richard Bland pub- 
lished his " Inquiry into the Rights of the British Colonies "; 
and John Mercer, as has been seen, as the spokesman of the 
Stafford justices in 1765, had been one of the first in Vir- 
ginia to take ground against the infringement of colonial 


rights. Doubtless he exchanged views with his nephew and 
whiloni ward, George Mason, and the latter in 1766 came 
before the public in the same good cause. 

The London merchants, after the repeal of the Stamp Act, 
wrote an address to the planters of Virginia, and George 
Mason wrote a letter in response, signing himself " A Virginia 
Planter," as one of the class addressed by the English mer- 
chants. This paper was dated " Virginia, Potomac River, 
June 6th, 1766,** and it appeared in the London Public Ledger 
of that year. The repeal of the Stamp Act was considered as 
a great act of grace on the part of the government, and was 
so represented in the letter of the merchants. The occasion 
was one in which simple justice was made to pass current as 
special favor, and the discontent of the colonists, it was 
argued, should be forever stifled. But as Parliament had 
not abandoned the principle of taxing the colonies, there 
wa^ no security for the future. George Mason's letter, full 
of spirit and clear-sighted wisdom, laid bare the true aspect 
of the matter. In the following passage the writer warned 
the British public of the results that would follow any sys- 
tem of coercion : 

" If the ministerial party could influence the legislature to 
make so cruel and dangerous an experiment as to attempt to en- 
force the Stamp Act by military power, would the nation have 
heartily engaged in such an execrable cause, and would there 
have been no difficulty in raising and transporting a body of 
troops sufficient to occupy a country of two thousand miles in 
extent ? Would they have had no danger to encounter in the 
midst of the wilds of America ? Three million of people driven 
to desperation are not an object of contempt." 

Colonel Mason thus alludes to himself and his pursuits : 
" These are the sentiments of a man who spends most of his 
time in retirement, and has seldom meddled in public affairs ; 
who enjoys a modest butVindependent fortune, and content 
with the blessings of a private station, equally disregards the 
smiles and favors of the great.'" ' 

' Appendix Hi. 


The Revenue Act, laying duties on tea, glass, paper, and 
painters' colors, passed the British Parliament in 1767, and 
fanned the patriotic elements into a fresh flame. In a short 
time all were repealed except the duty on tea, but a tempest 
lurked in the teapot, as England was soon to learn. And 
the disturbances at Boston and other places with the suc- 
ceeding retaliatory acts of the government brought to a 
crisis the growing antagonism between the colonies and the 
mother country. 

One letter of George Mason's, written in 1768, has been 
preserved, and has reference to the Ohio Company, which 
had had its claims referred back from the government in 
England to the government in Virginia. This letter is writ- 
ten to Robert Carter of " Nomini," Westmoreland County, 
a member of the council for many years, and usually called, 
from this circumstance, and to distinguish him from others 
of the family, " Councillor Carter." 

GuNSTON Hall, Janaary 23d, 1768. 

Dear Sir : 

The Ohio Company, being informed that their case is referred 
by order of his Majesty and Council to the consideration of the 
Governor and Council of Virginia, who are to make a report 
thereon, I have, at the instance of several members, wrote to his 
Honor the Governor, to desire the favor of him to inform us of 
the purport of this order &c.; what is expected from the Company 
in consequence thereof. I have taken the liberty, Sir, to enclose 
the letter under cover to you and must beg the favor of you to 
make such inquiries and procure such copies as you think neces- 
sary for the Company's information, as well as forward any 
answer the Governbr may think fit to favor us with. 

There is to be a meeting of the Company at Stafford Court 
House on Tuesday, the 23d of February next, where we expect 
to have the pleasure of your company. I enclose an advertise- 
ment to give notice of it, which you will please to have inserted 
in the Virginia Gazette. One is already sent to the printer at 

I received your favor of the nth December last and wished it 
was in my power to oblige you with the sum you desire, but I had 


some little time before let out what cash I had by me upon 

Maryland bonds, with a promise to the gentleman who borrowed 

it not to call for it soon. I made some large purchase. If I 

should be lucky enough to receive any considerable sum next 

summer, I will let you know it. 

I beg my compliments to your lady, and am, Sir, 

Your most obedient humble servant, 

G. Mason. 

To the Hon. Robert Carter, Esq. : 


Lord Botetourt arrived in Virginia in 1768, and much was 
expected from his gracious manners, his good sense and 
native kindness of heart. A letter from Col. George Mercer 
to one of his brothers in Virginia, written just before Lord 
Botetourt's departure from London, gives an interesting 
account of him, and presents a hopeful view of the political 
situation, while it touches upon other matters which are not 
without value as illustrating the period and its manners. 

** Ix)Ni>ON, August i6th, 1768. 

" Dear Brother . 

" . . .1 have been long under orders to cross the Welsh 
mountains for the benefit of goat's milk, but have always met 
with some accident to disappoint the prosecution of that scheme, 
and though I will allow very readily every other consideration 
ought to yield to health, yet I have permitted some political and 
worldly ones to counteract them. Lord Hillsborough has really 
detained me here for some weeks, and though I cannot exactly 
tell you what I am at present, yet I am — something indeed, 
perhaps I may be able to tell you what before I close my letter, 
or you may even hear it from the public. Suffice it at present to 
tell you I have actually and bona fide been appointed a Lt. Govr. 
and that nothing prevents the publication of this news, but the 
very great probability that I may be superseded immediately. 
Don't stop long at the last line of the page, for when you turn 
over to this I shall tell you, — the risk I run of losing my present 
commission is very great, but to be sure not very alarming or 
disagreeable, as it will be changed for that of Captain General 

I MS. Letter. 


and Commander-in-chief in and over, etc., but if you have no 
authentic advices of this change, keep both circumstances to 
yourself till I clear up the point to you. . . . 

''I congratulate you and my country on the appointment of Lord 
Botetourt to the government of Virginia. Lord Hillsborough, who 
is indefatigable in his endeavour to do good to the colonies, and be 
made acquainted with their real situation and complaints — I be- 
lieve has determined no longer to allow posts in America, but espe- 
cially governments, to be enjoyed by non-residents, and I know it 
was the first thing he thought of on entering into his office, 
to reform this terrible abuse in Virginia. At last thank Heaven 
he has effected the great work, and surely has given us a strong 
proof of his opinion of the consequence of an American govern- 
ment, by his appointment of Lord Botetourt ; a man of a very 
amiable character here, remarkable for his very great attention to 
business, as he was said never to be absent from the House of 
Commons during twenty years he was a member of it, at reading 
of prayers or when the house was adjourned, and he has been as 
remarkable since he came to the House of Peers for his close 
attendance there. He never was married, has been ever com- 
mended for his hospitality and affability, has, I believe, a very 
independant fortune, and, I know, one of the prettiest seats 
in England, as I have often visited it with great pleasure. You '11 
find his Lordship's title a very old one, though he was long kept 
out of it. He is one of the Lords of the King's Bed Chamber, 
and has always sat in the chair, since his title was acknowledged, 
when the Lords have been in a committee. Upon my honor I 
think from his general character and the small acquaintance 
I have the honor of with him, no man is more likely to make the 
people of Virginia happy, nor scarce any one who will be able 
more and essentially to serve them here, and I do most sincerely 
rejoice at his appointment. 

" His Lordship has employed me as his councillor as to the 
first arrangement of his family affairs in Virginia, and I have 
given him the best [advice] I could, and such as indeed it is 
impossible any one about him could have given. I wrote to 
your landlord Mr. Nicholson to take the conduct and direction 
of his Lordship's household till he arrives, and have told him 
his character. I wish he may be of use to him, however he will 


\ 1 




satisfy him genteelly for his trouble nov^, and will use him in 
his way of business for the future. I have told his Lordship 
that it was not impossible but you may have purchased a set of 
horses for me. If you have he will take them off my hands, and 
I shall be well quit of that expense. I presume you will of 
course take the first opportunity of waiting on your new gov- 
ernor, and I have promised for you, even at this distance, that 
you will cheerfully render him any service, but perhaps he will 
be more convinced of it, if you tell him so yourself. If you have 
any worthy industrious young man to recommend as a clerk to 
the Governor, — he must not be a gentleman above his business — 
perhaps you may get the berth for him. I have told his Lord- 
ship that Mr. Walthoe and you will be able to furnish him with 
one immediately. Remember if you choose to be concerned in 
the recommendation, that his Lordship is a man of business, and 
employ no fine, proud young gentleman who will be above his 

" I presume you will meet with no opposition in your election, 
but it may perhaps assist your interest if the people are informed 
that I have a promise that the accounts due them, since the cam- 
paign under General Braddock, and all claims on the Crown shall 
be paid them. Lord Botetourt can tell you the steps I have 
taken in that business. . . . 

'* The resolutions in the House of Burgesses, and Council in 
Virginia, puzzle the great ones much. Lord Hillsborough has 
talked to me very often on the subject, and says he doubts they 
will draw the resentment of Parliament on themselves, and 
wished frequently to be directed from Virginia not to present 
them, which he must do if they do not cancel them. I mentioned 
to his Lordship the unanimity with which they had passed, as he 
showed me the journals of the House where it was resolved tufn, 
con. J and that no doubt they had maturely weighed the subject 
before they determined ; that none but those who had made the 
resolutions could withdraw them, and I thought it very improba- 
ble a step which had been taken with general consent should be 
so soon cancelled. I said I would mention his wish if he desired 
it, but that I had not interest, provided I was inclined to do so, to 
assist him in obtaining it. But he still persisted after my saying 
this to him, to declare his desire of their retracting, and recom- 


mended it as the most prudent and salutary step that could now 
be taken. He has very frequently mentioned his astonishment 
at the council joining in these representations, as they are all ap- 
pointed by the King : 'To do justice, my Lord, I hope,' added I. 
It has been so often reported here that the council were to be 
dismissed, that I make no doubt it will be wrote over as news 
to Virginia, but I know from authority no such step has even 
been thought of yet. 

" You mention the difficulty you were in about fixing the price 
of the Shenandoah land, which from my father's letter I think 
may very easily be got over. Colonel Lewis, he writes me, was 
to purchase it. . . . 

" As I know your election will carry you to Hampshire, I enclose 
you Major Livingston's power of attorney and his papers ; it 
may perhaps fall in your way to talk to some of the people about 
them, and get some money for him, which you are to reserve for 
my orders. As we are come to elections, you may from me, and 
by my authority and request, decline any offer that may be made 
of electing me in Frederick. I would not serve a set who had 
showed so little regard for me in my absence, though they were 
more indebted to me than any man that ever was in their county, 
not even were they to elect me without a dissenting voice in the. 
county, and of this I beg you will take the trouble to inform 
them, for I am as fixed as fate, and therefore will in time save all 
expense and the chance of an opposition. . . . 

'' If you receive any money for me it will not be disagreeable to 
me to have it remitted, as the difficulty of getting money here is 
inconceivable. If a gentleman merchant lends you, after beg- 
ging, praying, beseeching, importuning, etc., etc., he is sure to 
tell it to all the trades, and though you tell him you cannot pay 
him under six months, he will be sure to ask you for it every 
week of the time. Thank my God I owe none of the gentry, and 
it would distress me more to fall in debt to one of them again, 
than thrice the sum would in the hands of a real gentleman. I 
should hope I have had the good luck to make some tobacco ; it 
surely bears a good price in Virginia, if not there, it gives a very 
good one here, but I would rather take a good Virginia price than 
run the risk of the danger of the seas and the merchant's honesty."' 

* MS. Letter owned by Wm. R. Mercer. 


The appointment which he had received through the in- 
fluence of Lord Hillsborough, to which Colonel Mercer re- 
fers so mysteriously, was that of Governor of North Carolina. 
He was appointed in 1769 to succeed Governor Tryon, who 
was sent to New York. But Colonel Mercer did not go to 
North Carolina after all, and Major Martin, a British officer, 
became governor of that colony in 1771. The resolutions 
of the Virginia Assembly which puzzled the great ones in 
England, were those passed in March, 1768, against the 
duties on glass, tea, etc. Governor Fauquier had summoned 
this Assembly, but his death occurring in the meantime, 
President Blair, of the council, presided over its delibera- 
tions, and countenanced its determined action in condemn- 
ing the duties. 

Arthur Lee wrote to his brother from London the year 
after Lord Botetourt's arrival : *' Your governor is becoming 
very popular, as we are told here, and I have the worst proof 
of it in the increased orders for fineries from the ladies at 
this time of general distress in their families. ... If his 
Excellency introduce such a spirit, I am sure his popularity 
will be ill-founded." Whether his Excellency was responsi- 
ble or not for the reported extravagance of the Virginia 
ladies, he was soon to And the Virginia legislators not as 
complaisant as he could desire. Their resolutions in the 
spring session of the Assembly for this year, 1769, denying 
the right of England to tax the colonies, and denouncing 
the act for transporting colonial offenders to England for 
trial, so alarmed the good Botetourt, that he incontinently 
dissolved the House. The delegates then adjourned to the 
house of Mr. Anthony Hay, in Williamsburg, and passed the 
" Non-importation resolutions of the Association at Williams- 
burg.*" These were offered by George Washington, either 
in person or by deputy, and they were written by his friend 
and neighbor, the retired planter of " Gunston Hall." Thom- 
son Mason who had been constantly a member of the As- 

> •• Writings of Washington," W. C. Ford. vol. ii., p. 263. Mr. Ford thinks 
it doubtful that Washington was present. 


sembly, representing Stafford County since 1758, was present 
at the May session of 1769, and he is named with Edmund 
Pendleton, Richard Bland, Robert Carter Nicholas, Richard 
Henry Lee, Peyton Rtodolph, and Thomas Jefferson, as the 
committee to draw up an address to the governor. The 
four important resolutions prepared in committee of the whole 
house, protested against taxation by any but the House 
of Burgesses, declaring it their privilege to petition for redress 
of grievances, giving their opinion that all trials for treason 
ought to be held within the colonies, and protesting against 
sending persons suspected of such a crime to be tried beyond 
the sea. The fourth resolve declared their intention of pre- 
senting a dutiful address to the king asking him to '' avert 
from them those dangers and miseries which will ensue, 
from the seizing, and carrying beyond sea, any persons re- 
siding in America, suspected of any crime whatsoever, to be 
tried in any other manner than by the ancient and long- 
established course of proceeding." The speaker of the House 
was instructed to transmit these resolves to the several Houses 
of Assembly on the continent. A committee of six, of whom 
Thomson Mason was one, was appointed to draw up an 
address to the king on the fourth resolution. The address, 
which was reported the following day. May 17th, closed 
with wishing the king a prosperous reign ; " and that after v 

death your Majesty may taste the fullest fruition of eternal 
bliss, and that a descendant of your illustrious house may 
reign over the extended British empire until time shall be no 

A message was shortly after received from the governor 
commanding their attendance in the council chamber. His 
speech was brief and to the point: "Mr. Speaker, &c., 
I have heard of your Resolves and argue ill of their effect. 
You have made it my duty to dissolve you, and you are 
dissolved accordingly." ' Then followed the meeting above 
referred to and the formation of the non-importation asso- 

' Journal of the Virginia Assembly. 


Jefferson, who had but recently entered the Assembly, 
comments on the circumscribed condition of the minds of 
the colonial burgesses, at this time, accustomed as they 
had been to consider it their duty to study in everything the 
interests of the mother country : " Experience," he adds, 
" soon proved that they could bring their minds to rights, on 
the first summons of their attention." The first summons, as 
we have seen, had been given by Patrick Henry, and Jeffer- 
son was to do much, later, in the work of leading and mould- 
ing public opinion. But on this occasion, in 1769, the summons 
was to come from Washington and George Mason, the one 
in his official position as a member of the House, the other as 
the unseen but potent ally of his friend, whose thoughtful 
mind and vigorous pen were to be ever henceforth at his 
country's service. The following correspondence between 
Washington and Mason will explain the views of each on 
this subject of non-importation. The resolutions, in the 
handwriting of George Mason, were found among Washing- 
ton's papers by the latter's biographer. They were evi- 
dently written out at the suggestion of Washington, as 
these letters show. Washington took the paper with him 
to the Assembly, and the burgesses, at their informal session 
after the dissolution, apparently adopted its principles with 

one accord : 

Mount Vbrnon, 5th April, 1769, 
Dear Sir : 

Herewith you will receive a letter and sundry papers [con- 
taining resolves of the merchants of Philadelphia, respecting the 
non-importation of articles of British manufacture] which were 
forwarded to me a day or two ago by Dr. Ross of Bladensburg. 
I transmit them with the greater pleasure, a^ my own desire of 
knowing your sentiments upon a matter of this importance 
exactly coincides with the doctor's inclinations. 

At a time when our lordly masters in Great Britain will be 
satisfied with nothing less than the deprivation of American 
freedom, it seems highly necessary that something should be 
done to avert the stroke, and maintain the liberty, which we 
have derived from our ancestors. But the manner of doing it. 


to answer the purpose effectually, is the point in question. That 
no man should scruple or hesitate a moment, to use arms in 
defence of so valuable a blessing, is clearly my opinion. Yet 
arms, I would beg leave to add, should be the last resource, the 
dernier resort. We have already, it is said, proved the inefficacy 
of addresses to the throne, and remonstrances to parliament. 
How far, then, their attention to our rights and privileges is to 
be awakened or alarmed, by starving their trade and manufac- 
tures, remains to be tried. 

The northern colonies, it appears, are endeavoring to adopt 
this scheme. In my opinion it is a good one and must be 
attended with salutary effects, provided it can be carried generally 
into execution. But to what extent it is practicable to do so, I 
will not take upon me to determine. That there will be a difficulty 
attending the execution of it everywhere, from clashing interests 
and selfish, designing men, ever attentive to their own gain, and , 
watchful of every turn, that can assist their lucrative views, 
cannot be denied ; and in the tobacco colonies, where the trade is 
80 diffused, and in a manner wholly conducted by factors for . 
their principals at home, these difficulties are certainly en- 
hanced, but I think not insurmountably increased if the gentle- 
men in their several counties will be at some pains to explain 
matters to the people, and stimulate them to cordial agreements 
to purchase none but certain enumerated articles out of any of 
the stores after a definite period, and neither import nor purchase 
any themselves. This, if it should not effectually withdraw the 
factors from their importations would at least make them ex- 
tremely cautious in doing it, as the prohibited goods could be 
vended to none but the non-associators, or those who would pay 
no regard to their association ; both of whom ought to be stig- 
matized, and made the objects of public reproach. 

The more I consider a scheme of this sort, the more ardently 
I wish success to it, because I think there are private as well as 
public advantages to result from it, — the former certain, however 
precarious the other may prove. In respect to the latter, I have 
always thought that by virtue of the same power^ which assumes 
the right of taxation, the Parliament may attempt at least to re- 
strain our manufactures, especially those of a public nature, the 
same equity and justice prevailing in the one case as the other, it 


being no greater hardship to forbid my manufacturing, than it is 
to order me to buy goods loaded with duties, for the express 
purpose of raising a revenue. But as a measure of this sort 
would be an additional exertion of arbitrary power, we cannot be 
placed in a worse condition, I think, by putting it to the test. 

On the one hand, that the colonies are considerably indebted 
to Great Britain, is a truth universally acknowledged. That 
many families are reduced almost, if not quite, to penury and 
want by the low ebb of their fortunes, and that estates are daily 
selling for the discharge of debts, the public papers furnish too 
many melancholy proofs. That a scheme of this sort will con- 
tribute more effectually than any other that can be devised to 
extricate the country from the distress it at present labors under, 
I most firmly believe, if it can be generally adopted. And I can 
see but one class of people, the merchants excepted, who will not, 
or ought not, to wish well to the scheme — namely, they who live 
genteelly and hospitably on clear estates. Such as these, were they 
not to consider the valuable object in view, and the good of others, 
might think it hard to be curtailed in their living and enjoyments. 
As to the penurious man, he would thereby save his money and his 
credit, having the best plea for doing that which before, perhaps, 
he had the most violent struggles to refrain from doing. The 
extravagant and expensive man has the same good plea to re- 
* trench his expenses. He would be furnished with a pretext to 
live within bounds, and embrace it. Prudence dictated economy 
before, l>ut his resolution was too weak to put it in practice. 
" For how can I," says he, " who have lived in such and such a 
manner, change my method ? I am ashamed to do it, and be- 
sides, such an alteration in the system of my living will create 
suspicions of the decay of my fortune, and such a thought the 
world must not harbour." He continues his course, till at last 
his estate comes to an end, a sale of it being the consequence of 
his perseverance in error. This I am satisfied is the way that 
many, who have set out in the wrong track, have reasoned, till 
ruin has stared them in the face. And in respect of the needy 
man, he is only left in the same situation he was found in, — better 
I may say, because, as he judges from comparison, his condition 
is amended in proportion as it approaches nearer to those above 


Upon the whole, therefore, I think the scheme a good one, and 
that it ought to be tried here, with such alterations as our circum- 
stances render absolutely necessary. But in what manner to be- 
gin the work is a matter worthy of consideration. Whether it can 
be attempted with propriety or efficacy, further than a communi- 
cation of sentiments to one another, before May, when the Court 
and Assembly will meet at Williamsburg, and a uniform plan can 
be concerted, and sent into the different counties to operate at the 
same time and in the same manner everywhere, is a thing upon 
which I am somewhat in doubt, and I should be glad to know 
your opinion. I am, &c., 

Gkorgk Washington. 
To Col. George Mason.' 

Colonel Mason wrote on the same day to Washington, 
sending him later the Resolutions he had prepared. He 
says : 

'' I entirely agree with you, that no regular plan of the sort 
proposed can be entered into here, before the meeting of the 
General Court at least, if not of the As3embly. In the meantime 
it may be necessary to publish something preparatory to it in 
our gazettes, to warn the people of the impending danger, and 
induce them the more readily and cheerfully to concur in the 
proposed measures to avert it ; and something of this sort I had 
begun, but am unluckily stopped by a disorder, which affects my 
head and eyes. As soon as I am able I shall resume it and then 
write you more fully, or endeavour to see you. In the meantime 
pray commit to writing such hints as may occur. 

*' Our all is at stake, and the little conveniences and comforts 
of life, when set in competition with our liberty, ought to be re- 
jected, not with reluctance, but with pleasure. Yet it is plain, 
that in the tobacco colonies we cannot at present confine our im- 
portations within such narrow bounds as the northern colonies, 
A plan of this kind, to be practicable, must be adapted to our 
circumstances ; for if not steadily executed, it had better have 
remained unattempted. We may retrench all manner of super- 
fluities, finery of all descriptions, and confine ourselves to linens, 

> Sparks' '* Life and Writings of Washington," yoI. ii., p. 351. 






woollens, &c., not exceeding a certain price. It is amazing how 
much this practice, if adopted in all the colonies, would lessen 
the American imports, and distress the various trades and manu- 
factures in Great Britain. 

" This would waken their attention. They would see, they 
would feel, the oppressions we groan under, and exert themselves 
to procure us redress. This once obtained, we should no longer 
discontinue our importations, confining ourselves still not to im- 
port any article that should hereafter be taxed by Act of Parlia- 
f ment for raising a revenue in America ; for, however singular I 
may be in my opinion, I am thoroughly convinced that justice 
and harmony happily restored, it is not the interest of these colonies 
to refuse British manufactures. Our supplying our mother coun- 
try with gross materials and taking her manufactures in return, 
is the true chain of connexion between us. These aife the bands, 

which, if not broken by oppression, must long hold us together, 
by maintaining a constant reciprocation of interest. Proper 
caution should, therefore, be used in drawing up the proposed 
plan of association. It may not be amiss to let the ministry 
understand that, until we obtain a redress of grievances, we 
will withhold from them our commodities, and particularly 
refrain from making tobacco, by which the revenue would 
lose fifty times more than all their oppressions could raise 

" Had the hint which I have given with regard to taxation of 
goods imported into America, been thought of by our merchants 
before the repeal of the Stamp Act, the late American revenue 
acts would probably never have been attempted." " 

Colonel Mason reminds Washington, in a postscript, that 
" next Friday is appointed for the meeting of the vestry." 

There were interviews between the two friends, as has 
been elsewhere noted, after this letter was written, and they 
saw each other doubtless at the vestry-meeting and talked 
over the politics of the hour. Another letter, a brief one, of 
Colonel Mason's; on the subject of their conferences, has been 
preserved : 

1 IHd, ; also Washington MSB., SUte Department. 


y GuNSTON Hall. 23 April, 1769. V;' 
Dear Sir : 

Upon looking over the Association, of which I sent you a 

copy, I have made some few alterations in it, as per memorandum 

on the other side. 

I beg your care of the enclosed letters ; and heartily wishing 

you (what I fear you will not have) an agreeable session, I am, 

Dear Sir, 

Your most obedient servant, 

G. Mason. 

' P. S. — I shall take it as a particular favor if you *11 be kind 
enough to get me two pairs of gold snaps made at Williamsburg, 
for my little girls. They are small rings with a joint in them, to 
wear in the ears instead of ear-rings ; also a pair of toupee- 

The fashions were not to be neglected at " Gunston Hall " 
any more than at gay little Williamsburg, and the young 
daughters of Colonel Mason must, if possible, have their 
" gold snaps " for the ears and the tongs with which to curl 
the toupee^ the little tuft of hair that was worn on the fore- 
head. But jewelry and other vanities were soon to be on 
the proscribed list with Virginia patriots, and the ladies 
were not behindhand after all in their support of the law- 
makers. The gazettes of the period contain occasional let- 
ters from them in Virginia, as in the other colonies, declar- 
ing their determination to abstain from luxuries, and 
especially to banish " India tea ** from their tables.' > The 
draft of the Non-Importation Resolutions adopted at Wil- 
liamsburg corresponds exactly with the one written by 
George Mason, except that two short articles were added 
and one of Mason's omitted.* This last was a resolution 
advocating non-exportation of certain enumerated articles. / 
Two letters of interest, written by George Mason in I770,| 
have been preserved. One of them is unsigned, as part of it 
has been lost, and the other is without an address, though we 

' Washington MSS., State Department. 

* Bark's ** History of Virginia/' yoI. iii., p. 345. Appendix iv. 


learn from the context that it was written to a young rela- 
tive in England. The former letter was written to Richard 
Henry Lee, and has reference chiefly to the Non -Importation 

^, GuMSTON Hall, June 7, 177a 

Dbar Sir : 

Your favor of the a6*^ May did not come to hand till the 
5*^ instant, or I should have answered it sooner. I now enclose 
you the abstract of [paper torn] of Act of Parliament in the 4*^ 
year of hb present Majesty's reign, with some remarks thereon, to 
which I beg leave to refer you, and think you will find them 
worthy of consideration, as the said Act of Parliament has never 
been totally repealed. 

I am glad to hear that the members below intend to establish 
some farther regulations to render the Association effectual, and 
I know of none that will answer the end proposed, but preventing 
by all legal and peaceable means in our power (for we must avoid 
even the appearance of violence) the importation of the enumer- 
ated goods ; experience having too fully proved that when the 
goods are here many of our people will purchase, even some who 
effect to be called gentlemen. For this purpose the sense of 
shame and the fear of reproach must be inculcated and enforced 
in the strongest manner, and if that can be done properly it has 
a much greater influence upon the actions of mankind than is 
generally imagined. Nature has impressed this useful principle 
upon every breast ; it b a just observation that if shame was ban- 
bhed out of the world, she would carry away with her what little 
virtue is left in it. 

The names of such persons as purchase or import goods 
contrary to the Association should be published, and themselves 
stigmatized as enemies to their country. We should resolve not 
to associate or keep company with them in public places, and 
they should be loaded with every mark of infamy and reproach. 
The interest, too, of the importer may be made subservient to our 
purpose, for if the principal people renounce all connection and 
commerce forever with such merchants, their agents and factors, 
who shall import goods contrary to the tenor of the Association, 
they will hardly venture to supply their worst customers with 
such articles at the hazard of losing their best. But I don't see 



how these regulations can be affected by any other means than 
appointing committees in the counties to examine from time to 
time into the imports and to convey an account of any violation 
of the Association to the Moderator, to be by him published, or 
by a committee appointed for that purpose in Williamsburg, or in 
such other manner as shall be judged best, for without such 
committees in the country, I am convinced we shall once more 
fail of carrying the plan into execution. As it is of great conse- 
quence to have these committees composed of the most respecta* 
ble men [paper illegible] ; it will be best that one committee be 
appointed for two or more counties, as the circumstances of 
particular parts of the country may require, and such of the^ 
merchants as are members of the Association ought by all means 
to be of these committees. It is true in Maryland there is a 
committee in every county, but their counties are generally larger 
than two of ours. The committees, whenever there is an im- 
portation of goods within their respective districts, should 
convene themselves and in a civil manner apply to the mer- 
chants or importers concerned, and desire to see the invoyces 
and papers respecting such importation, and if they find any 
goods therein contrary to the Association, let the importers 
know that it is the opinion and request of the country that such 
goods shall not be opened or stored, but reshipped to the places 
from whence they came, and in case of refusal, without any 
manner of violence, inform them of the consequences, and 
proceed to publish an account of their conduct. I am persuaded 
there are few importers who would persist in refusing to comply 
with such a request, and proper resolution in the Association, 
with one or two public examples, would quickly put an end to it. 
The objection that this would be infringing the right of others 
while we are contending for liberty ourselves is ill founded. 
Every member of society is in duty bound to contribute to the 
safety and good of the whole ; and when the subject is of such 
importance as the liberty and happiness of a country, every 
inferior consideration, as well as the inconvenience to a few 
individuals, must give place to it ; nor is this any hardship upon 
them, as themselves and their posterity are to partake of the 
benefits resulting from it. Objections of the same kind might be 

made to the most useful civil institutions. 




1 . 


It may perhaps be proposed to have such goods as are imported 
contrary to the Association stored here unopened, instead of 
re-shipping them. But besides the risk of having such goods 
privately sold, storing them would by no means answer the same 
purposes as reshipping them, for if the goods are reshipped they 
will most of them be returned to the wholesale dealers and shop- 
keepers, and occasion an immediate stagnation of business 
between them and the manufacturers ; this would be practice, 
not theory, and beyond anything else convince the people of 
Great Britain that we are [paper torn] by an appeal to their own 
senses. I am at a loss to determine, even in my own mind, 
whether these proposed regulations ought to have retrospect, so 
as to require the reshipping of goods that were already imported 
before the 14th of this month. Not that I think there is any in- 
justice in it, because all such persons as have imported goods 
contrary to the Association, have done it with their eyes open, 
and at their own peril, with a view to private gain, which 
deserves no countenance from the public ; and those merchants 
who have conformed themselves to the opinion and interest 
of the country have some right to expect that [paper torn] of 
the Association should [paper torn] upon the occasion. The 
principal objection is the seeming impracticability of such a 
measure, which would put the committees upon very minute and 
difficult inquiries ; on the other hand, there are some strong 
reasons for such retrospect.V'There is great cause to believe that 
most of the cargoes refusea to be received in the other colonies 
have been sent to this. I will mention some recent instances, 
particularly a ship a few weeks ago from Baltimore, in Maryland, 
with a cargo of about ;^3,ooo. And a committee which sat a 
few days ago in Port Tobacco, after examining a merchant's 
imports there, and finding nothing contrary to Association, at 
last accidentally stumbled upon an invoyce of eight or nine hun- 
dred pounds of anti Association goods ; the nest was there, but 
the birds were flown — no such goods could be found ; they had 
been privately sent to Virginia. Unless these machinations can 
be counteracted, and their contrivers effectually disappointed, 
l^S||inia wil{ become the receptacle of all the goods refused by 
the other colonies, and from hence they will be sent again 
privately, in small quantities at a time, to frustrate the Associa- 
tions of the other parts of the continent; to our everlasting 



scandal and to the weakening of that mutual confidence, which 
in these oppressive and dangerous times should be so carefully 
cherished and preserved^' Suppose (to observe a sort of medium) 
that all goods imported contrary to the Association which now 
remain unopened, or uncut, should be directed to be reshipped ; 
or, if this is thought too much, the retrospect maybe limited to a 
certain time, so as to include the goods that shall come from the 
neighboring colonies, which I believe is but a late practice. I 
have had some conversation with the neighboring merchants 
upon the subject ; they profess themselves ready to acquiesce in 
whatever shall be thought the interest of the country. Mr. 
Henderson, in particular, declares that he will cheerfully order 
to be packed up such goods as are contrary to the Association in 
any of the stores he has the direction of (and you know he is con- 
cerned for one of the greatest houses in the tobacco trade), and 
either store them until our grievances are redressed, or reship 
them if the gentlemen of the Association shall require it. In his 
own store he says there are no goods contrary to the Association. 
In this I think he [paper torn] well ; it is not the interest of his 
owner to forfeit the esteem and good will of the people of this 
colony. To do the merchants in this neighborhood justice, they 
have, so far as I have been able to observe, behaved in a very 
becoming manner, and have all along testified their willingness 
to accede to any measure that shall be judged conducive to the 
public good. 

Whoever looks over with attention the proceedings of the ^^ 

ministerial party in the H e of C ns will be convinced 

that the late vote for a partial instead of a total repeal of the 
revenue act complained of was founded upon an opinion that 
the Americans could not persevere in their AssociationO^The 
custom-house books showed that the exports to Virginia in 
particular were very little if at all lessened ; and that the ex- 
ports to this colony are of greater importance to Great Britain 
than to any other on this continent, will not be denied by any 
man acquainted with the subject ; this shows the necessity of 
our exerting ourselves effectually upon the present occasion. ^Our 
sister colonies all expect it from us, our interest and our liberty and 
happiness, as well as that of our posterity, everything that is near 
and dear to us in this world requires it. [George Mason.] ^ X^ 

> MS. Letter. / 





GuNSTON Hall, Dec. 6, 1770. 

Dear Sir : 

I have your favor of the 7th July, which is the third you have 
obliged me with since you left Virginia. That I have not an- 
swered them sooner, I hope you know is not owing to want of 
friendship ; it will always give me pleasure to hear of your wel- 
fare, and a young fellow of twenty must not stand upon ceremony 
with an old one of forty-five. I am much obliged to you for the 
pamphlets you sent me ; we have had them in detached pieces in 
the public papers, but there is no judging of such performances 
by scraps. Junius's letters are certainly superior to anything of 
the kind that ever appeared in our language. The most remark- 
able periods for party-writing were about the change of the 
ministry in Queen Anne's time, and the latter end of Sir Robert 
Walpole's ministry in the late King's reign, and although the 
ablest men in the nation then entered the lists their performances 
I fell far short of Junius. Most of our best writers have imitated 
the florid Ciceronian style, but this author is really an original. 
Learned and elegant without the vanity of seeming so, his man- 
ner of expression, though new and almost peculiar to himself, is 
yet free from the affectation of singularity, bold and nervous like 
the genius of the nation he writes for. 

The non-importation associations here are at present in a very 
I languid state. Most people seem inclined to try what the Par- 
liament will do this winter towards redressing the American 
/^ grievances, as they showed some inclination last s^sion to a 
reconciliation. We are not without hopes that \, when men's 
passions have had time to cool, and reason takes its place, 
that this most desirable end may be attained, and that happy 
' harmony restored which for more than a century produced 
such mutual benefits to both countries. Perdition seize the 
man whose arbitrary maxims and short-sighted policy first 
interrupted it ! But should the oppressive system of taxing 
us without our consent be continued, the flame lowered now 
will break out with redoubled ardor, and the spirit of oppo- 
} sition (self-defence is its proper name) wear a more formidable 
\ shape than ever — more formidable because more natural and 
/ practicable. The associations, almost from one end of this con- 
\ tinent to the other, were drawn up in a hurry and formed upon 


err oneous p rinciples. It was imagine^ that they would occasion / j 

siic^ a sucTden stagnation in trade, and such murmurs among the \1/ \/ 

manufacturers of Great Britain that the parliament would feel 
the necessity of immediately repealing the American revenue 
acts. One year would do the business, and for one year or two 
we could do without importing almost anything from Great 
Britain. Men sanguine in an interesting subject easily believe 
that must happen which they wish to happen ; thus the Ameri- 
cans entered into agreements which few were able to perform 
even for the short time at first thought necessary. Many cir- 
cumstances have concurred to frustrate such a scheme, particu- 
larly the unusual demand for British goods from the northern 
part of Europe, and more than anything else the impracticability 
of the scheme itself, and the difference between the plans adopted 
in the different provinces. Time has pointed out our mistakes, 
and errors well known are more than half corrected. Had the 
subject been well digested and an association entered into which 
people would have felt themselves easy under and persevered in ; 
had one general plan been formed exactly the same for all the 
colonies (so as to have removed all cause of jealousy or danger 
of interfering with each other) in the nature of a sumptuary law, 
restraining only articles of luxury and ostentation together with 
the goods at any time taxed, and at the same time giving all 
encouragement to American manufacturers and invitations to f 

( (manufacturers from Europe to remove hither and settle among *( 
^us, and as these increased from time to time still decreasing our 
European imports ; an association being formed upon these prin- 
ciples would have gathered strength by execution, and however 
slow in its operation it would have been certain in its effects. It 
may perhaps be thought that the trade of Great Britain would be 
little affected by such restriction, but luxury and ostentation are , 
comprehensive terms, and I will venture to affirm that it imme- 

r diately would lessen the imports to this continent from Great 
Britain ^^300,000, and the government would lose more in one 


year on two articles only (manufactured tobacco and malt 
liquors) than it would gain in ten by the American revenue acts. 
Such a plan as this is now in contemplation, God grant we may 
have no cause to carry it into practice. Had the colonies an in- "^ 

tention of throwing off their dependence, was the sovereignty of 


Great Britain really in dispute as the ministry affect to believe, 
administration would be right in asserting the authority of the 
mother country ; it would be highly culi>able if it did not do so, 

* but the wildest chimera that ever disturbed a madman's brain 
has not less foundation in truth than this opinion. The Ameri- 
cans have the warmest affection for the present royal family, the 
strongest attachment to the British government and constitu- 
tion ; they have experienced its blessings and prefer it to 
any that does or ever did exist ; while they are protected 
in the enjoyment of its advantages they can never wish to change. 
There are not five men of sense in America who would accept of 
independence if it was offered ; we know our own circumstances 
too well ; we know that our own happiness, our very being, 
depends upon our being connected with our mother country. 
We have always acknowledged, we are always ready to recognize, 
the government of Great Britain, but we will not submit to have 
our own money taken out of our pockets without our consent, 
because, if any man or any set of men take from us without our 
consent or that of our representatives one shilling in the pound 
we have no security for the remaining nineteen. We owe our 
mother country the duty of subjects ; we will not pay her the 
submission of slaves. So long as Great Britain can preserve the 
vigor and spirit of her own free and happy constitution, so long 

• may she, by a mild and equal government, preserve her sover- 
eignty over these colonies. What may be the effect o^^olence . 
and oppression no man can answer, but any man may venture to 
pronounce that they can never be productive of good. 

In answer to your question about the subscription to Mr. 
Wilkes, there was a subscription set on foot to ship that gentle- 
man forty-five hogsheads of tobacco as a small acknowledgment 
for his sufferings in the cause of liberty, which I believe would 
have been filled up but for the very Mr. Miles you mention. He 
very officiously contrived to get the subscription into his hands, 
and after collecting some of the tobacco and applying it to his 
own use, as soon as the matter took wind, fearing a little Ameri- 
can discipline upon the occasion, he scampered off with the 
subscription papers and has never been heard of since. I do 
not tell you this of my own knowledge (for I never saw Miles)^ 
but I believe there is no doubt of the truth of the fact. 


I received a letter from my kinsman, Col. Mercer, dated the 
a4th July, speaking very doubtfully of the Ohio Company's affairs 
in England. This is only the third letter from him which ever 
came into my hands since I saw him in Virginia until this very 
day, when I received a small packet from him containing some 
interesting intelligence, but of a very old date, so long ago as the 
ad of last January. From what he says of the many letters he 
has wrote me, and from what I know of the number I have wrote 
him, I am convinced some s — 1 who knows our handwriting must 
have interrupted them, though I can't pretend even to guess at 
any particular person. He tells me in his letter of the 24th of 
July that he shall leave England in September, otherwise Mr. 
Macpherson's going to London would have afforded me a certain 
opportunity of assuring him that a few years' absence had neither 
erased him out of my memory or affection. As to the Ohio 
Company's affairs here I could have given him no satisfaction or 
information. It is absolutely more difficult to procure a meeting 
of our members than it is to assemble a German Di^t ; notwith- 
standing appointments and advertisements without number, I 
really believe there has never been a meeting of the Company 
since he went from Virginia. 

As your brother Robert goes to London in the same ship by 
which I write, he will inform you of the situation of our relatives 
and friends in Virginia and Maryland. All at Gunston Hall 
join in wishing you health and happiness with, dear sir, 

Your affectionate kinsman and obedient servant, 

G. Mason.* 

A recent writer has noted the excellence of the " party 
writing" in one of the periods to which George Mason 
alludes. " The age,'* he says of Queen Anne's time, " was 
prolific in pamphlets. ... It would be difficult to find a 
period when pamphleteers were both so many and so bril- 
liant. With more or less to say of the Sacheverell affair we 
have Swift, Defoe, Atterbury, Davenant, Mainwaring, Charles 
Leslie, Tom Brown, and William King." " As his mother's 
uncle had been engaged in the "Sacheverell affair," no 

* Mason Papers. 

• *' Reign of Queen Anne," vol. !i., p. 273, J. Hill Burton. 


doubt Colonel Mason had read of it with more than ordinary 

interest. In his discussion of the merits of Junius, George 

\ Mason evinces his appreciation of the caustic style of the 

great unknown, whose letters were eagerly read by the 

^ American patriots, the latter seeing in these trenchant 

attacks upon the ministry a justification of their own course. 

Arthur Lee in London was corresponding with their author 

and signing his own productions yunius Americanus. Wilkes 

too was a hero at this time in America as well as in England, 

among good whigs. The tribute of the tobacco-planters in 

Virginia to his services in the cause of liberalism would seem 

to have met with unmerited disaster. The second " Associ- 

jl ation " had been formed in Williamsburg in June, 1770, and 

•^ it is significant to mark George Mason's fervent hope that 

nothing more would be needed, and his emphatic protest 

i against the " chimera " of independence may be taken as a 

fair indication of the general sentiment on the subject at 

this period. William Lee was also in London in 1770, and 

was sheriff of the city at the time of Wilkes* mayoralty. He 

wrote home to his brother, Richard Henry Lee, on the 6th 

of February, giving a graphic account of the political situation : 

" Lords Camden and Chatham are greater than ever ; the last is 
really divine. His sentiments and expressions of America are 
the same as before. The second instant the House of Lords sate 
from two in the evening till past two in the morning, later than 
ever was known. Lord Chatham astonished even those that had 
known him for near forty years, though he was laboring under 
a fit of the gout. Lords Mansfield, Marchmont, Egmont, and all 
the rest fell before him like grass before a keen scythe. But 
't was all in vain — a question involving annihilation to the con- 
stitution was carried against him by a great majority." 

In the halls of the Virginia House of Assembly 
hangs to-day the full-length portrait of Lord Chatham, 
painted in 1768, by Charles Wilson Peale, then a young 
artist just beginning his career. It was the gift of a Vir- 
ginian living in London, to the gentlemen of Westmoreland 


County. Richard Henry Lee wrote over on behalf of 
himself and his neighbors to order Lord Camden's portrait 
about this time. It was to have been painted by West, but 
the artist could never find the great man ready to give him 
a sitting, and finally, in 1769, Lord Camden frankly admit- 
ted that he deemed it inexpedient to gratify his American 
admirers. ' William Lee describes also an episode in the 
House of Commons, when " Col. Barr6 and Mr. Burke 
made everybody laugh ready to die for near an hour with 
their comments on Lord Botetourt's two speeches to your 
Assembly ; the last Col. Barr6 challenged the whole min- 
istry, and defied them to make common sense of." ' But 
the Virginians loved and respected Lord Botetourt, believ- 
ing him to be at heart their friend. And after his death, 
which occurred in this same year, they placed a statue of 
him in Williamsburg, where it may still be seen. 

Lord Fairfax's books show that in October, 177 1, George 
Mason had a tract of land granted to his father in 1709 
re-surveyed, as he thought it contained surplus land. This 
proved to be the case, and the re-survey reached " to the 
line of Nicholas Brent's now Col. George Washington's 
land."' In September, 1772, Colonel Mason was at "Mt. 
Eilbeck," in Charles County, Maryland, on a visit appa- 
rently to his wife's mother, then a widow.* Colonel Eilbeck 
died in 1765, and Mrs. Eilbeck in 1780. 

Thomson Mason, who had removed from Stafford County 
to Loudoun, was in the February Assembly, 1772 — taking 
his seat, it would seem, on the 30th of March when 
he was placed immediately on the more important com- 
mittees. In April an address was drawn up to present 
to the king, protesting against the slave trade. It stated 
that " the importation of slaves into the colonies from 
the coast of Africa hath long been considered as a trade 

* '• Virginia Historical Regjistcr," vol. i., p. 68. 
' •• Lee's Campaigns of 1781," p. 63. 
' Virginia Land Registry Office. 
< MS. Letter. 


of great inhumanity, and under its present encourage- 
ment we have too much reason to fear will endanger the 
very existence of your Majesty's American dominions. 
We are sensible that some of your Majesty's subjects in 
Great Britain may reap emoluments from this sort of 
traffic, but when we consider that it greatly retards the 
settlement of the colonies with more useful inhabitants, 
and may, in time, have the most destructive influence, we 
presume to hope that the interest of a few will be disre- 
garded when placed in competition with the security and 
happiness of such numbers of your Majesty's dutiful and 
loyal subjects." The petitioners besought the king to re- 
move all those restraints on the governors of the colony, 
" which inhibit their assenting to such laws as might check so 
very pernicious a commerce." 

A bill for opening and extending the navigation of the 
Potomac River from Fort Cumberland to tide-water was com- 
mitted to Thomson Mason, George Washington, and others.* 
At this same session a law was passed making provision for 
keeping in repair the roads leading to Alexandria and Col- 
chester from the northwestern parts of the colony. They were 
at this time, it is stated, owing to the large number of wagons 
that used them, almost impassable. The county courts of 
Fairfax, Loudoun, Berkeley, and Frederick, were required to 
levy certain stipulated taxes for three years on the inhabi- 
tants of these counties, these sums to be paid by the respective 
sheriffs to Thomson Mason, Francis Peyton, Bryan Fairfax, 
Alexander Henderson, and others, who are appointed trustees 
to carry the act into execution.' 

In February, 1772, George Mason added two hundred 
and fourteen acres to certain tracts in Hampshire that 
he had bought in 1754.* The proprietor's office had been 
removed from Fairfax to Frederick County. Washington 
was having lands surveyed for himself at this time on 
the Ohio, and he and George Mason, as members of 

' Journal of the Virginia iVssembly. • Hening's ** Statutes,*' vol. 8. 

' Virginia Land Registry Office. 


the Ohio Company, were interested in this locality. In a 
letter written to Washington, December 21st, 1773, by 
George Mason, the latter says : " I am much obliged to you 
for your information concerning the land upon the western 
waters. I long to have a little chat with you upon the sub- 
ject." ' William Crawford had been commissioned by the 
College of William and Mary as surveyor of the Ohio Com- 
pany in 1773, in place of Christopher Gist, who was now 
dead. Crawford was Washington's friend and his agent in 
the western-land purchases, and he writes to Washington in 
the fall of this year : '^ I waited on Colonel Mason on my 
return home, and have agreed with him to survey the Ohio 
land as soon as the land for the soldiers is done.*' ' 

The affairs of the Ohio Company had reached a disas- 
trous crisis in 1773. As early as 1765 there had been a 
project set on foot by Sir William Johnson, Governor Frank- 
lin, and others, to establish a colony in the Illinois country, 
on land which was within Virginia's chartered territory. 
This was revived in 1769 by Thomas Wjtlpole, Samuel 
Wharton, Benjamin Franklin, and others, who formed what 
was called the Grand Company. The new colony was to be 
named Vandalia. In 1772, Lord Hillsborough reported ad- 
versely on the Walpole petition : " A measure which we 
conceive is altogether as unnecessary as it is impolitic, as we 
see nothing to hinder the government of Virginia from ex- 
tending the laws and constitution of that colony to such 
persons as may have already settled there under legal titles." * 
Dr. Franklin made an elaborate and specious reply to Lord 
Hillsborough, in which he denied Virginia's title to the land, 
assuming that it had belonged to the Six Nations, from 
whom it was purchased for the king in 1768, at Fort Stan- 
wix. Walpole's petition was granted, and Col. George 
Mercer, entirely without the consent of its members in 
Virginia, agreed to merge the Ohio Company in the Grand 

* Washington MSS., State Department. 

• •* Washington-Crawford Letters," p. 36. 

» •• Works of Franklin." Sparks, vol. iv., p. 302. 


Company. A letter of Colonel Mercer's, however, written 
in 1767, shows that he was then working diligently to secure 
the rights of the Virginia enterprise, the Ohio Company of 
1748, whose grant was made to it as a part of Virginia, and 
whose members had no disloyal intention of setting up a 
separate government from that of the Old Dominion. He 
is writing to the company from London, November 21st. 
He speaks of the project pf establishing new governments as 
no longer a secret, and he tells of his interviews with the 
Board of Trade, where he was examined on the subject of 
their practicability, expense, etc. He says : 

'^ I took an opportunity in the course of my examination to 
mention the disappointments of the Ohio Company, to shew the 
use and necessity of their scheme of settlement, etc. . . . And 
at the same time I thought it hard treatment to the Ohio Com- 
pany that a set of gentlemen just informed of the fertility of that 
world, should be allowed to settle it, and have all the advantages 
which the first execution of a settlement there must at first enjoy 
over a later one, while the Ohio Company were restrained from 
what they esteemed a right, and for which they had paid very 
heavily ; while these Adventurers acknowledge themselves, not 
only indebted to the discoveries made at the expence of the Com- 
pany, for part of their information, but for the passage they had 
at a great expence too, opened for them through the mountains, 
as they should always use the Company's road to convey every- 
thing and their settlers to their government. Indeed I complained 
as much as I thought I dared to do, of the delays the Company had 
met with, and especially in the last reference of their claim to the 
governor of Virginia." ' 

And he urges that the governor's report be sent over as soon 
as possible to re-enforce the company's claim. In August, 
1 77 1, Colonel Mercer wrote to the Ohio Company complain- 
ing that no instructions were sent him and no money, and 
that five letters he had written — one in 1767, and four in 
1770 — remained unanswered." He tells of his admission to 

' MS. Letter. 

* Letter of Robert Carter, from the '* Carter Letter-Books." 


the Grand Company, and that '' the whole claim of the Ohio 
Company is denominated two shares, which are entered on 
the minutes of the G. C. [to him] as agent for the Ohio 
Company." The difficulties in the way of correspondence 
between the company in Virginia and its agent in England 
were so remarkable as to lead to the inference that their 
mall was intercepted. Not hearing from any one in America, 
Colonel Mercer was won over to the Vandalia scheme, and 
he was promised the appointment of governor of the new 
colony. He wrote to George William Fairfax on the 2d 
of December, 1773, telling him of the compromise that was 
proposed, by which the two companies should be merged 
into one. But new scruples arose on the part of the English 
government : ** I am not yet Governor," he adds, " and a 
fresh objection, the last I hope they have to offer, has arisen 
against the policy of the grant, so far as it relates to Britain." ' 
George Mason's correspondence with Colonel Mercer on 
this subject has not been preserved. But a valuable paper 
written by Colonel Mason in 1773, " Extracts from the Vir- 
ginia Charters, with Some Remarks on Them," was evi- 
dently written to refute the arguments of Franklin and in 
support of the Ohio Company's claim. And the cause of the 
company was the cause of Virginia. This manuscript is re- 
ferred to with commendation by both Bancroft and Grigsby. 
The latter says that it " was regarded as an unanswerable ex- 
position of colonial rights under the charters," and " proved 
a rich mine of authority in the controversy then waging 
between the King and his colonies." ' After a full discussion 
of the charters and quotations from acts of the Assembly 
under them. Colonel Mason goes on to say that these 
" demonstrate that the country to the westward of the Alle- 
ghany Mountains, on both sides of the Ohio River, is part of 
Virginia. And consequently that no new Government or 
Proprietary can legally be established there. Nor hath any 
attempt of that sort ever been made from the time of the 

' " The Fairfaxes of England and America/' p. 140 
• •• Virginia Convention of 1776." H. B. Grigsby. 


said charter [the charter of King Charles II.] until the late 
extraordinary application of Mr. Walpole and his associates, 
to the Crown to grant them a Proprietary Charter and create 
a new government between the Alleghany mountains and 
the River Ohio (in direct violation of the Virginia Charters), 
which would not only have taken away great part of the 
territory of this colony, but would have removed from under 
the immediate protection of the Crown and the Government 
of Virginia several thousand Inhabitants settled there under 
the faith of the said Charters, etc. ... To this illegal 
and injurious attempt several Gentlemen in Virginia, the 
Ohio Company, were made in some measure accessory, 
without their knowledge and very contrary to their incli- 
nation ; but at the first general meeting after having 
received notice of it, they unanimously declared their dis- 
approbation of the measure and their absolute refusal of 
having any concern in it, which regulation they not only 
entered in their own books and communicated to the mem- 
ber of their Company in England, but for their justification 
to posterity sent a copy thereof to the Governor and Council 
to be entered if they thought fit, on their journals." ' 

' Appendix v. 




In 1773. the peaceful household at "Gunston Hall" was 
visited by a great affliction in the death of Mrs. Mason, the \ 
devoted wife and mother, the kind mistress, who for twenty- 
three years had been its presiding domestic genius. The 
eldest child at this time was a youth of twenty and the 
eldest daughter was a year or two younger. Thomas, the 
youngest son and child, was bom in 1770, and was baptized, 
as the family Bible records, by the Rev. Lee Massey, Mr. 
Martin Cockbum and Capt. John Lee standing god-fathers 
and Mrs. Mary Massey and Mrs. Ann Cockburn god-mothers. 
The little Elizabeth, the youngest of four sisters, had been 
born two years previously. They were a happy united 
family, writes General Mason in his reminiscences. "Of 
my mother," he says, " being only seven years old at the 
time of her death, I have in most things but an imperfect 
recollection, but some matters relating to her of a domestic 
nature are yet perfectly written in my remembrance. As 
my father was spared until I had grown to manhood and 
indeed entered on the busy scenes of life, I of course 
remember much of him. We, the children, all lived to- 
gether in great harmony at the paternal mansion, until the 
respective periods when each by marriage, or pursuits in 
business for themselves, were successively drawn off from 
that common homc."^ The son's recollections of his '''I 
mother's room are thus minutely detailed : , 


** I remember well the appearance and arrangement of her 
chamber. There stood, among other things, a large old chest of 
drawers so-called, which held the children's clothes, to which, 
little fellow as I was, I was often carried to get something, or 
would run there to rummage it without leave. The lower tier 
consisted of three drawers, the middle and larger of these was 
the [word illegible] drawer, that on the right and smaller was the 
[word illegible] drawer. Next above and the whole length of the 
case was the cap drawer, next above that, a deep one also and of 
the whole length, was the gown drawer. Next above was the 
shirt drawer, and next to that the jacket drawer. Then above all 
came the drawers, each of half length, which were kept locked. 
They were devoted to my mother's more private use and for 
matters of greater value. The other drawers were always un- 
locked and each was devoted to the purpose its name designated, 
and by that name it was known and used by all the family. 
There were also two large, deep closets, one on each side of the 
deep recess afforded by a spacious stack of chimnies. The one 
on the right of the chimney contained the current part of my 
mother's wardrobe and was called her closet, or, as the case 
might be by children or servants, ' mama's closet,' or ' mistress's 
closet.' The other, on the left, was emphatically designated /^ 
closet. It held the smaller or more precious stores for the table, 
and would now, I suppose, be called an upper pantry. I can't 
forget one of the articles deposited in my mother's closet. It was 
a small, green horsewhip, with a silver head and ring by which it 
was hung there against one of the walls, and which my mother 
used to carry when she rode on horseback, as she often did when 
in health. This little instrument was applied sometimes to other 
purposes as discipline required among the children, and we used 
to call it the ' green doctor.' " y 

Of Mrs. Mason's last illness we have this account : 

'^ My revered mother was afflicted for a considerable time and 
confined to her room or bed for some months by the disease 
which terminated in her death. Long as that has been ago and 
young as I then was, yet I am confident in the recollection of 
her and of some of the scenes of her latter days, as well as of the 


furniture and structure of her room, and the more so that they 
have often since passed in review from time to time in my mind. 
She was attended during her illness by Dr. Craik, who lived in 
Charles County, Maryland, near my grandfather Eilbeck, and 
who was afterwards the surgeon-general of the Revolutionary 
army, and was the intimate and personal friend of General Wash- 
ington as he was of my father. Among his prescriptions for her 
was weak milk punch to be taken in bed in the morning. Little 
urchin as I was, it is yet fresh on my mind, that I was called 
sometimes by this beloved mother to her bedside to drink a little 
of this beverage, which I loved very much, from the bottom of 
the cup. The last that I remember, of that affectionate parent 
and excellent woman (for I know by the tradition of the sur- 
rounding country, among rich and poor, that she was beloved 
and admired by everybody for her virtues and charities), is that 
she took me one day in her arms on her sick bed, I believe 
it must have been but a few days before her death, told me she 
was soon going to leave us all, kissed me and gave me her bless- 
ing, and charged rae to be a good boy, to love and obey my 
father, to love and never to quarrel with my brothers and sisters, 
to be kind to the servants, and if God spared me, when I grew 
up, to be an honest and useful man. The precise words in which 
this departing and all-affecting charge and blessing were con- 
veyed, I, of course, cannot be certain about, but the substance of 
them I know I have retained ; and I well remember that I had 
intelligence and sensibility enough to be aware of the sacredness 
of the charge, and of the awful crisis in the family it foreboded, 
that I received it with a swollen heart and fell immediately into a 
hearty and long cry. It may be supposed that I have retained a 
perfect recollection of this scene when I say, as I can with truth, 
that I have been in the habit of often recalling it to my mind, 
with pious regard, as well in my younger as in latter days, and I 
believe and hope it has had its influence on my course of life. I 
ought not to omit to add that it was my mother's constant habit 
to make me and the other younger children, one or two at a time, 
kneel down before her, put our hands on her lap, and say our 
prayers every night before we went to bed. I remember well her 
funeral, that the whole family went into deep mourning suddenly 
prepared, that I was led clothed in black to her grave, that I saw 



her coffin lowered down into it by cords coverd with black cloth, 
and that there was a large assemblage of friends and neigh- 
bors of every class and of the slaves of the estate present ; that 
the house was in a state of desolation for a good while, that 
the children and servants passed each other in tears and silence 
or spoke in whispers, and that my father for some days, paced the 
rooms, or from the house to the grave (it was not far) alone." ' 

In the family Bible is preserved, in George Mason's own 
handwriting, the following tribute to the wife so sincerely 
loved and so deeply lamented : 

"On Tuesday, the ninth of March, 1773, about three o'clock 
in the morning, died at Gunston Hall, of a slow fever, Mrs. Ann 
Mason, in the thirty-ninth year of her age, after a painful and 
tedious illness of more than nine months, which she bore with 
truly Christian patience and resignation, in faithful hope of 
eternal happiness in the world to come. She, it may be truth- 
fully said, led a blameless and exemplary life. She retained, 
unimpaired her mental faculties to the last ; and spending her 
latest moments in prayer for those around her, seemed to expire 
without the usual pangs of dissolution. During the whole course 
of her illness, she was never heard to utter one peevish or fretful 
complaint, and wholly regardless of her own pain and danger, 
[she] endeavoured to administer hope and comfort to her friends, 
or inspire them with resignation like her own. For many days 
before her death she had lost all hopes of recovery, and en- 
deavoured to wean herself from the affections of this life, saying 
that although it must cost her a hard struggle to reconcile herself 
to the thoughts of parting with her husband and children, she 
hoped God would enable her to accomplish it ; and after this, 
though she had always been the tenderest parent, she took little 
notice of her children, but still retained her usual serenity of 

" She was buried in the family burying-ground at Gunston Hall; 
but (at her own request) without the common parade and cere- 
mony of a grand funeral. Her funeral sermon was preached in 
Pohick Church by the Rev. Mr. James Scott, rector of Dettingen 

' MS. of Genl. John Mason. 


Parish, in the county of Prince William, upon a text taken from 
the twenty-third, twenty-fourth, and twenty-fifth verses of the 
seventy-third Psalm. 

"In the beauty of her person and the sweetness of her dis- 
position, she was equalled by few and excelled by none of her 
sex. She was something taller than the middle size, and elegantly 
shaped. Her eyes were black, tender and lively ; her features 
regular and delicate ; her complexion remarkably fair and fresh, 
Lilies and roses (almost without a metaphor) were blended there, 
and a certain inexpressible air of cheerfulness and health. Inno- 
cence and sensibility diffused over her countenance formed a 
face the very reverse of what is generally called masculine. This 
is not an ideal but a real picture drawn from the life, nor was 
this beautiful outward form disgraced by an unworthy inhabitant. 

'* ' Free from her sex's smallest faults, 
And fair as womankind can be.' 

She was blessed with a clear and sound judgment, a gentle and 
benevolent heart, a sincere and an humble mind, with an even, 
calm and cheerful temper to a very unusual degree ; affable to 
all, but intimate with few. Her modest virtues shunned the public 
eye ; superior to the turbulent passions of pride and envy, a 
stranger to altercation of any kind, and content with the blessings 
of a private station, she placed all her happinness here, where ^ 
only it is to be found, in her own family. Though she despised 
dress, she was always neat ; cheerful, but not gay ; serious, but 
not melancholy ; she never met me without a smile ! Though 
an only child, she was a remarkably dutiful one. An easy and 
agreeable companion, a kind neighbor, a steadfast friend, a 
humane mistress, a prudent and tender mother, a faithful, affec- 
tionate, and most obliging wife ; charitable to the poor, and pious 
to her Maker ; her virtue and religion were unmixed with hy- 
pocrisy or ostentation. Formed for domestic happiness, without 
one jarring atom in her frame ! Her irreparable loss I do and ever 
shall deplore, and though time I hope will soften my sad impres- 
sions, and restore me greater serenity of mind than I have lately 
enjoyed, I shall ever retain the most tender and melancholy 
remembrance of one so justly dear." 


A handsome altar-shaped tomb was erected by Colonel 
Mason to his wife's memory. The four sides are of white 
marble, the base and upper portion of gray stone. On one 
side is the following inscription : 

" Ann Mason Daughter of William Eilbeck 

(of Charles County in Maryland Merchant 

departed this Life on the 9th Day of March 1773 

(in the 39th Year of her Age after a long and 

painful illness, which she bore with uncommon 

(Fortitude and Resignation. — 

** Once She was all that cheers and sweetens Life ; 
The tender Mother, Daughter, Friend, and Wife : 
Once She was all that makes Mankind adore ; 
Now view this Marble, and be vain no more.** * 

The following lines were found in Colonel Mason's pocket- 
book, after his death, and were preserved by his daughter^ 
Mrs. McCarty, who believed them to have been written or 
copied shortly after her mother's death : 

" Sweet were the halcyon hours when o'er my bed 
Peace spread her opiate pinions, through the night ; 
Love scattered roses gently round my head. 
And morning waked me to increased delight ; 
Yet every future hour resigned I 'd bear. 
Oh could I but forget what once they were I 
But nightly visions only keep alive 
The fond remembrance of her much-loved form { 
And waking thoughts tend only to revive 
The wreck of joys o'er which I mourn ; 
Alas 1 what can the honors of the world impart 
To soothe the anguish of a bleeding heart." 

Moved doubtless by the solemn warning of man's mor- 
tality given him through this bereavement, George Mason, 
on the 20th of March, 1773, eleven days after his wife's 

* " Epistle to Mr. Jervas — with Mr. Dryden's Translation of Fresnoy's Art of 
Painting."— /*<^^. The epitaph on the wife of William Wirt— Sept. 17, 1799— 
is from the same poem. The lines in each case are slightly altered. 


death, made his will. It was contained in fifteen pages and 
written with his own hand. He begins in the following 
manner : 

'^ I, George Mason, of Gunston Hall, in the parish of Truro and 
county of Fairfax, being of perfect and sound mind and memory 
and in good health, but mindful of the uncertainty of human life 
and the imprudence of a man*s leaving his affairs to be settled 
upon a death-bed, do make and appoint this my last will and tes- 
tament. My soul I resign into the hands of my Almighty Creator, 
whose tender mercies are over all his works, who hateth nothing 
that he hath made and to the Justice and Wisdom of whose dis- 
pensation I willingly and cheerfully submit, humbly hoping from 
his unbounded mercy and benevolence through the merits of my 
blessed Saviour, a remission of my sins." 

He wishes to be buried by the side of his " dear and ever 
lamented wife.'* His eldest son George and his " good friend 
Mr. Martin Cockburn ** were appointed executors of his will; 
and that no dispute or diiliculty might arise to his executors 
or children about the division of his property among the 
residuary legatees. Colonel Mason appointed his "good 
friends the Rev. Mr. James Scott, the Rev. Mr. Lcc Mas- 
sey, Mr. John West, Jun., Col. George Washington and Mr. 
Alexander Henderson,*' whenever it was necessary to make 
such division. And he adds: "I hope they will be so 
charitable as not to refuse undertaking this trouble for the 
sake of a friend who when living would cheerfully have done 
the many good office in his power.** We learn who were 
Colonel Mason*s intimate friends at this time by the trust 
here given, as well as by the bequests such as the following: 

'' I desire my old and long-tried friends the Rev. Mr. James 
Scott and Mr. John West, Junr., each of them to accept of a 
mourning ring. ... I leave to my friend and relation the 
Rev. Mr. Lee Massey a mourning ring . . . and I intreat 
the favor of him to advise and assist my Executors in the direc- 
tion and management of my affairs. I am encouraged to re- 
quest this of him from the experience I have had myself of his 


good offices that way and I am satisfied that both he and my 
worthy friend Mr. Cockbum will excuse the trouble I now give 
them when they reflect upon the necessity that dying men are 
under of thus employing the care and kindness of the living 
which must also one day be their own case. And as the most 
acceptable acknowledgment I can make them, desire them to 
receive out of the common stock of my estate the sum of ten 
pounds a year to be laid out by them in private charities upon 
such as they shall judge worthy objects." 

Standing sadly by his wife's open grave George Mason 
spoke as a dying man. But life— ^public life — was just open- 
ing out before him. Three years before, to the boy of 
twenty, he had called himself an old man. He was then 
forty-five and now at forty-eight he doubtless felt that life 
had given him of its best. But in truth his talents and ener- 
gies were in their prime ; and the blow that had fallen upon 
his domestic happiness may have been just the discipline of 
sorrow that was needed to brace his spirit — so enamoured of 
the sweets of a private station — for the performance of the 
grave public duties before him. And while he seemed to 
himself to put away the world and the world's work, in his 
noble exhortation to his sons the fires of patriotism are seen 
to glow as a flame within his soul. The charge to them was 
to be his own call to duty. In his will, while he recom- 
mends them to " prefer the happiness of a private station to 
the troubles and vexations of public business," he adds : 

" If either their own inclination or the necessity of the times 
should engage them in public affairs, I charge them on a father's 
blessing never to let the motives of private interest or ambition 
induce them to betray, nor the terrors of poverty and disgrace, 
or the fear of dangers or of death, deter them from asserting the 
liberty of their country and endeavouring to transmit to their 
posterity those sacred rights to which themselves were bom." 

Mrs. Mason's funeral sermon was preached on the 27th of 
April, as we learn from Washington's diary. Mrs. Washing- 
ton drove to Pohick church to hear it, carrying with her 


Mrs. Calvert and Mrs. William Augustine Washington, who, 
with their husbands, were on a visit to " Mt. Vernon." A 
few days later Washington went to see his sorrowing friend, 
taking dinner at " Gunston Hall," and returning home in the 
afternoon. Sorrow entered the " Mt. Vernon " household 
also in this year — lovely young Martha Custis dying on the 
19th of June, 1773. Colonel Mason now in his turn visited 
the house of mourning. Meeting Washington at court the 
next day, he returned with him to " Mt. Vernon," where he 
remained overnight. Colonel Mason was not at " Mt. Ver- 
non " again until the i6th of August, when he was there with 
his friend Major Jenifer, staying over until the eighteenth. 
In the spring of 1774, before the opening of the Assembly, 
which carried him to Williamsburg, Washington had another 
visit from George Mason, who probably wished to talk with 
him about the building of a vestry-house in the parish. )\The 
following advertisement on the subject appeared in The 
Virginia Gazette^ on the 21st of April: 

" To be let, on Friday the 2 2d of April, at the new church near 
Pohick, in Truro Parish, Fairfax Co., to the lowest bidder, by the 
vestry of the said Parish, 

'' The building of a Brick Vestry House 24 feet long and 18 feet 
wide, the enclosing of the said Churchyard 158 feet square, with 
posts and rails, the posts to be of sawed cedar, and the rails yel- 
low pine, clear of sap, with three handsome palisade gates, the 
whole to be done in the neatest and most substantial manner. 

' ^ (-Churchwardens." \J 

" Thomazin Ellzev ) \ 

In 1773 the movement for more combined action between 
the colonics received a stimulus by the origination in the 
Virginia House of Burgesses of Committees of Correspond- 
ence. Massachusetts soon after made a similar proposal. 
The resistance to the duty upon tea was more or less 
marked throughout all the colonies. But, in Boston the 
signal action of its citizens, December, 1773, in throwing the 
tea overboard from the vessels in the harbor, brought down 



upon them the vengeance of the administration in the Bos- 
ton Port Bill, which threatened to destroy their commerce 
and occasioned great distress to many of the poorer class of 
the community. This was in May, 1774, and the Virginia 
Assembly was in session when the news reached Williams- 
burg. A circular letter was sent from Boston, written by 
Samuel Adams, to all the colonies, asking for their aid and 
sympathy in this crisis. The Virginia burgesses passed a 
resolution on the 24th of May appointing the 1st of June, 
the day on which the bill was ^o take effect, as a day of 
fasting and prayer, in view of the distressed condition of 
Boston. And for this unequivocal expression of the light 
in which they viewed the action of the government, Lord 
Dunmore, on Thursday, the 26th of May, dissolved the 
Assembly. They adjourned to the Raleigh tavern, and 
eighty-seven members of the " late house of burgesses," as 
they styled themselves, put their names to an " Association " 
expressive of sympathy with Boston, whose cause they con- 
sidered as their own, and proposing that the Committee of 
Correspondence should recommend to the other committees 
of the colonies a general congress to concert united action. 
This meeting at the Raleigh took place on the 27th of 
May. Colonel Mason, who was in Williamsburg at the time 
on business of his own, wrote to his friend, Martin Cockbum, 
at "Springfield," May 26th, the very day the House was 
dissolved. As he mentions in this letter, Mason had arrived 
the Sunday before and had therefore been only four days in 

WiLUAMSBURG, May 26, 1774. 

Drar Sir : 

I arrived here on Sunday morning last, but found everbody's 
attention so entirely engrossed by the Boston affair, that I have 
as yet done nothing respecting my charter-rights, and, I am 
afraid, shall not this week. 

A dissolution of the House of Burgesses is generally expected ; 
'but I think will not happen before the house has gone through 
the public business, which will be late in June. 


Whatever resolves or measures are intended for the preserva- 
tion of our rights and liberties, will be reserved for the conclu- 
sion of the session. Matters of that sort here are conducted and 
prepared with a great deal of privacy, and by very few members ; 
of whom Patrick Henry is the principal. At the request of the 
gentlemen concerned, I have spent an evening with them upon 
the subject, where I had an opportunity of conversing with Mr. 
Henry, and knowing his sentiments ; as well as hearing him 
speak in the house since, on difTerent occasions. He is by far 
the most powerful speaker I ever heard. Every word he says 
not only engages but commands the attention ; and your passions 
are no longer your own when he addresses them. But his elo- 
quence is the smallest part of his merit. He is in my opinion 
the first man upon this continent, as well in abilities as public 
virtues, and had he lived in Rome about the time of the first . 
Punic War, when the Roman people had arrived at their meridian 
glory, and their virtue not tarnished, Mr. Henry's talents must 
have put him at the head of that glorious commonwealth. 

Enclosed you have the Boston Trade Act and a resolve of our 
House of Burgesses. You will observe that Jft is confined to the 
members of their own house ; but they would, wish to see the 
example followed through the country ; for which purpose the 
members, at their own private expense, are sending expresses 
with the resolve to their respective counties. Mr. Massie (the 
minister at Fairfax) will receive a copy of the resolve from CoL 
Washington ; and, should a day of prayer and fasting be ap- 
pointed in our county, please to tell my dear little family that I 
charge them to pay a strict attention to it, and that I desire my 
three eldest sons and my two eldest daughters may attend church 
in mourning, if they have it, as I believe they have. 

I begin to grow heartily tired of this town and hope to be able 
to leave it some time next week, but of this, I can't yet be cer- 
tain. I beg to be tenderly remembered to my children, and am 
with my compliments to my cousins and yourself, 

Dear Sir, 

Your affectionate and obedient servant, 

G. Mason.' 

* "Virginia Historical Register," vol. IH., p. 37. The original, in 1850, 
was in the Alexandria Musei:^, afterwards destroyed by fire. 


The governor's action in dissolving the Assembly evi- 
dently took them by surprise, as George Mason, who was in 
their counsels, writes so confidently of their business keeping 
them in session until the last of June. Through this letter 
we learn the date of George Mason's first acquaintance with 
Patrick Henry, to whose eloquence, ability, and public virtue, 
he here pays a glowing tribute. A mutual esteem and re- 
spect sprang up between these two leaders, and their accord 
on questions of public policy was never materially impaired 
throughout the momentous period that followed, in which 
they so often labored side by side. One can imagine the 
excitement in the small Virginia capital on those May days 
of 1774, as the news spread abroad of the events that were 
transpiring. Colonel Mason, after posting his letter, may 
have walked to the Assembly, and been present at its disso- 
lution. He was doubtless among the spectators in the 
Apollo room the next day listening to the resolves of the 
Association. A Virginia historian has pictured him at the 
ball, given by the burgesses to Lady Dunmore, which took 
place the night of the twenty-seventh. * The polite Virgin- 
ians, having made their preparations to entertain the gov- 
ernor's family, could not let this little political contre-temps 
interfere with their gallantry. Washington was present at 
this ball. But it is not likely the grave and sad-hearted 
visitor from " Gunston Hall," who had only the year before 
been made a widower, would appear on such an occasion. 
Rather sombre must have been the feeling of all thinking 
men and women among the g^uests at the festivities on this 
memorable night. Under the surface of their courtesy 
lurked latent embers of discontent not to be easily smoth- 
ered. And Virginia had virtually seen the end of her royal 

On the 29th of May, the delegates who were still in 
Williamsburg, met together to consider the propositions 
just received from Boston, advocating not only non-impor- 
tation but non-exportation. The latter point called out a 

* " Stories of the Old Dominion," J. Esten Cooke. 



difference of opinion. A circular letter was sent by the 
deputies to their constituents, recommending a meeting of 
deputies, or a convention, to be held in Williamsburg the 
1st of August, at which the sense of the colony on the 
subject under debate should be fully made known. The 
convention was also to appoint delegates to the Continental 
Congress, should the latter be resolved upon. Richard 
Henry Lee, in a letter to Samuel Adams, June 23d, gives 
an account of these proceedings at the capital. " The day 
before we were dissolved," he writes, ** I had prepared a set 
of resolutions." They contained a protest against the block- 
ing up of Boston harbor, and named delegates to meet with 
others from the several colonies to consider the means most 
effectual for stopping exports, etc., and " adopting other 
measures for securing the rights of America." He did not 
offer these resolutions, as it was urged public business should 
be finished first, and the burgesses " were inclined to believe 
from many conversations they had heard, that there was no 
danger of a dissolution before it had happened." Lee says 
that he then proposed to the dissolved Assembly the plan 
of a general congress, but they did not think they had the 
authority requisite, after their dissolution. And he adds: 
" Most of the members and myself among the rest, had left 
Williamsburg before your message from Boston had arrived. 
Twenty-five of them, however, were assembled to consider 
of that message, and they determined to invite a general 
meeting of the whole body to consider the measure of stop- 
ping the exports and imports." ' 

The " charter-rights " in regard to which Colonel Mason 
had come to Williamsburg at this time, related to lands 
which he had purchased in western Virginia. Among the 
Jefferson papers in the State Department, is to be found a 
copy of " The Memorial and Petition of George Mason, of 
the County of Fairfax, presented to the governor and coun- 
cil June, 1774, praying entrys or warrants for lands due for 
the importation of people, according to the royal charter." 

' " American Archives," 4th series, vol. i., p. 446. 



George Mason, in this paper, discussed the question of *' Im- 
portation Rights/' the ancient method of acquiring lands in 
the colony, and then describes the later method of " Treas- 
ury Rights," or purchase by money paid into the treasury, 
and he concludes in these words : 

*' That your petitioner confiding in, and upon the faith of the 
before mentioned royal charter laws and custom, hath been at 
great trouble and expence, and hath laid out considerable sums 
of money, in purchasing from the importers legal certificates of 
rights to large quantities of land, due for the importation of 
people from Great Britain and Ireland into this colony, and 
prays that he may be admitted to entrys for the said lands, upon 
the western waters in the County of Fincastle ; upon his produ- 
cing the usual certificates and assignments, or that his Excellency, 
the Governor, will be pleased to grant your petitioner his war- 
rant for surveying the same, etc." * 

George Mason went back to Gunston, doubtless in com- 
pany with some of the burgesses, discussing the serious as- 
pect of political affairs. During the summer, meetings were 
held in all the counties, at which resolutions were passed of 
the same general character, advocating a non-importation 
policy, and recommending a Continental Congress. In 
Fairfax County, George Washington was chairman of the 
< meeting, and one of the committee to prepare the resolutions. 
■ The work of drafting these resolves, however, was committed 
; to George Mason. They were twenty-four in number, and 
! they set forth the grievances of the colonies, and mapped 
j out a programme of non-intercourse with the mother coun- 
] try, while they advocated the necessity of calling a congress 
; for the further guidance of the colonies in their just resist- 
ance to the usurpations of the crown.' Sparks says of these 
Fairfax Resolves that " they constitute one of the ablest and 
most luminous expositions of the points at issue between 
Great Britain and the colonies which are to be found among 
the public documents of that period. Embracing the great 

' Appendix vi. * Appendix viL 


principles and facts, clothed in a nervous and appropriate 
style, they are equally marked with dignity, firmness, intel- 
ligence and wisdom." * As a practical tribute to their value 
and efficiency it need only be stated that when the conven- 
tion met in August, the Fairfax Resolves were taken as the 
basis of the association there entered upon, which associa- 
tion was in substance adopted by the general Congress at its 
first session in the following September. The meeting in 
Fairfax was held July i8th. Washington writes in his jour- 
nal that Colonel Mason came to see him on the afternoon 
of the 17th, and stayed all night, and that he went up to 
Alexandria the next day " to a meeting of the county." On 
the 26th of the same month the freeholders of Albemarle 
held their meeting and Jefferson is believed to have been 
the author of the Albemarle Resolutions. His biographer 
Randall institutes the following comparison between the 
Albemarle Resolutions and those of the other counties, and 
he seeks out for special parallelism the Fairfax Resolves. 
In the former, he says, the ground is taken " that the colon- 
ists are subject to no laws but those of their own creation, 
that Parliament has no authority over them in any case, or 
on any subject, that they possess the power of self-govern- 
ment by * natural right,' or * the common rights of mankind,' 
that these rights have been invaded by Parliament, and 
particularly in the Boston Port Bill, that the inhabitants 
of Albemarle will ever be ready to join in executing and 
re-establishing these powers by whomsoever invaded." 
Of the Fairfax meeting, Randall says, it "took Substan- 
tially the same positions " as those of Hanover, where Pat- 
rick Henry presided, and of the other counties, twenty- 
eight in all. Several of these, he adds, " deny the right of 
Parliament to tax the colonies under any circumstances; 
but none other contains a hint, or the shadow of a hint, 
that the colonies were wholly independent of Parliament — 
free, of natural right to enact all their own laws, and subject 
to none other. . . . The legal or constitutional right of 

> " Life of Washington," chap, vi., p. 116. 


Parliament to legislate for the general concerns of the col- 
onies was nowhere denied, however bitterly the abuse of 
that right might be complained of." This doctrine of the 
Albemarle Resolutions, held by Jefferson, no one but Wythe 
shared with him, Randall asserts, and he quotes from Jeffer- 
son's memoir: " Our other patriots, the Lees, Nicholas, Pen- 
dleton, stopped at the half-way house of John Dickinson, 
who admitted that England had a right to regulate our 
commerce, and to lay duties for such purposes, but not for 

Quoting from the Fairfax Resolves, Randall cites this 
clause, referring to the power of Parliament to regulate 
\ American trade and commerce: "Such a power directed 
• with wisdom and moderation seems necessary for the gen- 
eral good of that great body politick of which we are a part, 
although in some degree repugnant to the principles of the 
constitution. Under this idea our ancestors submitted to 
it ; the experience of more than a century, during the govern- 
ment of his Majesty's royal predecessors, has proved its util- 
ity." A doubt is here suggested, continues Randall, as to the 
"theoretical propriety of the Navigation Acts under the 
principles of the British Constitution, which is admitted par- 
amount, but even this is waived on the plea of necessity 
and utility." ' It would seem to amount to a " hint," and 
to something more than a hint, as to the illegality of the 
Navigation Acts. And it would be difficult for an unbiased 
mind to see the distinction in doctrine between the follow- 
ing declarations : " That no other Legislature [than that of 
the colony] can rightly exercise authority over them [the 
\ inhabitants]" {Albemarle Resolutions). "That the legis- 
/ I lative power here can of right be exercised only by our 
1 provincial Assemblies or Parliaments " {Fairfax Resolves). 
The latter then continues : " But as it was thought just and 
reasonable that the people of Great Britain should reap 
advantages from the colonies adequate to the protection 
afforded them, the British Parliament have claimed and ex- 

> Randall's ** Life of Je£Fersoii/' vol. i., p. 86. 


ercised the power of regulating our trade and commerce." 
Their ancestors, George Mason goes on to say, had sub- 
mitted to this power, though it was capable of abuse and 
had been abused, " yet to avoid strife and contention with 
our fellow-subjects, and strongly impressed with the experi- 
ence of mutual benefits, we always cheerfully acquiesced in 
it while the entire regulation of our internal policy, and 
giving and granting our own money, were preserved to our 
own Provincial Legislatures." Nothing could be clearer 
than this declaration of natural and constitutional right. 
There had been parliamentary usurpation, was the argument 
of the Fairfax Resolves, dating back for a century, but it was 
tolerated for obvious reasons. The new and distinct usurpa- 
tions of Parliament, dating from 1764, were not to be 
tolerated, for reasons equally obvious. 

While George Mason was thus occupied as the spokesman 
of his county in setting forth the rights and grievances of the 
colonists, his brother, Thomson Mason, was not idle in the 
same cause. The legal learning and ability for which he was 
conspicuous among his contemporaries, were brought to the 
service of his country in a series of letters written by him 
from Williamsburg in June and July of this year, under the 
signature of " A British American." * Six of these letters 
are preserved ; three others had been published on the 
"long-litigated right of the British Parliament to tax the 
American colonies." He now wished to give his sentiments 
as to ** what ought to be the conduct of the inhabitants of 
British America in the present alarming state of affairs." 
And he adds : 

" I think it more peculiarly my duty to do so at this time, be- 
cause (though one of the Representatives of the Colony of Virginia) 
I did not attend the last session of the Assembly ; indeed, as I 
live a very retired life, a great distance from Williamsburg, I did 
not hear of the Act of Parliament relative to Boston till after the 
Assembly was dissolved ; but I urge not this in justification, nor 
even in palliation of my offence, since nothing can excuse a 

* ** American Archives," 4th series, vol. i., pp. 647-653. 



Representative of the people from constantly attending in As- 
sembly ; and as I neither expect, or shall attempt to be chosen 
again, I take this as the only method left me of atoning to my 
country for having neglected my duty." 

In the ninth and last of these letters, dated the 28th 
of July, ten days after the meeting in Fairfax and 
two days after the meeting in Albemarle, Thomson Mason 
enforces still more emphatically the view that his brother 
had expressed in the Resolves as above cited. He says, in 
regard to a plan he proposes for meeting the crisis : 

*' It is objected that this measure strikes at the Navigation 
Acts, which we have long submitted to. The very objection 
evinces the folly of trusting the decision of this dispute to 
posterity, who, familiarized to oppression, will never resist it, 
and who, by long use, will be accustomed to look upon every 
badge of slavery with as little horror as we do upon the Naviga- 
tion Acts, which ought certainly to be considered as impositions 
of the strong upon the weak, and as such ought to be resisted as 
much as any of the other Acts we complain of ; nor will the dis- 
pute ever be ended till, by refusing submission to them, we 
remove so dangerous a precedent." 

In this same letter is a passage, quoted by Rives in his 
" Life of Madison," where Thomson Mason tells his country- 
men that, if all hope fails of a peaceful redress of grievances, 
there is but one alternative : 

*' You must draw your swords in a just cause, and rely 
upon that God, who assists the righteous, to support your 
endeavors to preserve the liberty he gave, and the love of 
which he hath implanted in your hearts as essential to your 

In conclusion the writer avowed his authorship of the 
series in the following words : 

'' And now, my friends, fellow-citizens, and countrymen, to con- 
vince you that I am in earnest in the advice I have given you. 


notwithstanding the personal danger I expose myself to in so 
doing ; notwithstanding the threats thrown out by the British 
aristocracy of punishing in England those who shall dare to 
oppose them in America ; yet because I do not wish to survive 
the liberty of my country one single moment ; because I am de- 
termined to risk my all in supporting that liberty, and because I 
think it in some measure dishonest to skulk under a borrowed 
name upon such an occasion as this, I am neither afraid or 
ashamed to avow that the letters signed ' A British American ' 
were written by the hand and flowed from the heart of 

" Thomson Mason." * 

Through a letter of Washington's to Bryan Fairfax, we 
learn that efforts were being made by Washington at this 
time to induce George Mason to re-enter the Assembly. 
The delegates from Fairfax were Washington and Colonel 
West, probably the father of John West, Jr., George 
Mason's friend mentioned in his will. Washington was 
ready to serve again, but Colonel West meant to withdraw, 
and Washington wished that either Bryan Fairfax or George 
Mason would come forward in his place, instead of Charles 
Broadwater, who eventually became the delegate. The 
members of the Assembly were to meet in convention the 
following March, the exigencies of the times calling for this 
measure, and it was important that Virginia should be repre- 
sented by her best men. The eager politicians gathered in 
the churchyard, after the Sunday service, apparently to talk 
over the approaching election. It may have been at Christ 
Church, in Alexandria, which had been completed the year 
before, or at the new Pohick church, where the country 
gentlemen would doubtless assemble in goodly numbers, 
that the conferences Washington speaks of took place. He 
writes from " Mount Vernon " on the 4th of July, 1774: 

'' I wished much to hear of your making an open declaration 
of taking a poll for this county, upon Colonel West's publicly 
declining last Sunday ; and I should have written to you on the 

^ Ibid. 



subject, but for information then received from several gentlemen 
in the churchyard, of your having refused to do so, . . . upon 
which, as I think the country never stood more in need of men 
of abilities and liberal sentiments than now, I entreated several 
gentlemen at our church yesterday to press Colonel Mason to 
take a poll, as I really think Major Broadwater, though a good 
man, might do as well in the discharge of his domestic concerns, 
as in the capacity of a legislator. And therefore I again express 
my wish, that either you or Colonel Mason would offer. I can 
be of little assistance to either, because I early laid it down as a 
maxim not to propose myself, and solicit for a second." ' 

Edmund Randolph has left an interesting sketch of George 
Mason as he appeared to his contemporaries in 1774, before 
he had come prominently forward in political life. " Among 
the numbers," he writes, " who in their small circles were 
propagating with activity the American doctrines, was 
George Mason in the shade of retirement. He extended 
their grasp upon the opinions and affections of those with 
whom he conversed. How he learned his indifference for 
distinction, endowed as he was with ability to mount in any 
line ; or whence he contracted his hatred for pomp, with a 
fortune competent to any expence, and a disposition not 
averse from hospitality, can be solved only from that philo- 
sophic spirit which despised the adulterated means of culti- 
vating happiness. He was behind none of the sons of Vir- 
ginia in knowledge of her history and interest. At a glance 
he saw to the bottom of every proposition which affected 
her. His elocution was manly ; sometimes, but not wanton- 
ly, sarcastic." " 

A subscription was started in Fairfax County for the poor 
of Boston, the sufferers from the Port Bill, and from Fairfax 
the undertaking spread through other portions of the colony. 
The Fairfax gentlemen, among whom doubtless were Geoi^e 
Washington and George Mason, had subscribed by the 6th 

» " WriUngs of Washington," Sparks, vol. ii., p. 388. 
• MS. History of Virginia. (Virginia Historical Society.) 


of July, after a few days' canvass of the county, two hundred 
and seventy-three pounds sterling in specie (about one thou- 
sand three hundred and sixty-five dollars), thirty-eight bar- 
rels of flour, and one hundred and fifty bushels of wheat.* 
The Continental Congress met in September, at Carpenter's 
Hall in Philadelphia. The delegates from Virginia, chosen 
by the convention in August, were carefully selected, and 
represented in Richard Henry Lee and Patrick Henry, as it 
has been said, oratory and eloquence, in George Washington 
the soldier, in Richard Bland the finished writer, in Edmund 
Pendleton the man of law, in Peyton Randolph solidity of 
character, in Benjamin Harrison the wealthy and influential 
planter. " There are some fine fellows come from Virginia," 
wrote Joseph Reed, " but they are very high. The Bostoni- 
ans are mere milksops to them. We understand they are 
the capital men of the colony, both in fortune and under- 
standing." ■ That the Virginians generally were " very high " 
in the expectations they had formed as to the future rSle of 
the Old Dominion and its sons may be inferred from what 
Edmund Randolph tells us of the election : 

'' Some of the tickets on the ballot assigned reasons for the 
choice expressed in them. These were that Randolph should r^v)*^ 
preside in Congress ; that Lee and Henry should display the 
dilFerent kinds of eloquence, for which they were renowned ; that 
Washington should command the army, if an army -should be 
raised ; that Bland should open the treasures of ancient colonial 
learning ; that Harrison should utter plain truths, and that 
Pendleton should be the penman for business." • 

Edmund Pendleton and Patrick Henry stopped at 
" Mount Vernon " on their way to Congress. Colonel 
Mason came over from " Gunston Hall " and spent the night 
with them and the next day, the 31st of August, they 
went on to Philadelphia in company with Washington. 

' "American Archives/' 4th series, vol. i.» p. 517. 
« •* Life of Reed," vol. i.. p. 75. 
* MS. History of Virginia. 



The Congress decided upon a non-importation and non- 
exportation league. The latter half of this self-denying 
measure had been advocated (with the former) as early as 
1769 by George Mason, in the resolution which was rejected 
by the Association at Williamsburg. He was thus five years 
in advance of the Congress, in the policy then, and long 
after, believed to be the surest way of averting war. Certain 
modern writers, however, find the wisdom of the fathers 
folly in this respect. And John Adams has been applauded 
because he endorsed but half of the measure, advocating non- 
exportation only.' A congress would seem to have been 
needed to enable the hitherto disconnected colonial govern- 
ments to inform themselves as to common needs and inter- 
ests. Two years before, Samuel Adams, writing to Richard 
Henry Lee, "having long wished a correspondence with some 
gentlemen in Virginia," shows incidentally how little this 
Northern commonwealth knew of its Southern neighbors: 
" We have heard," he says, " of bloodshed and even a civil 
war in our sister colony of North Carolina, and how strange 
is it that the best account we have of that tragical scene 
should be brought to us from England." And William Wirt 
tells of the stories he had heard in his youth bearing on this 
point. A soldier who went to Boston at the beginning of 
the Revolution entertained his neighbors with the marvels 
he had seen ; having gone " so far North that the North star 
was to the South." 

The battle of Point Pleasant was fought on the loth of 
October, 1774, in which General Andrew Lewis contended 
against the "Northern Confederacy of Indians," led by 
" Cornstalk," the Shawnese chief. The Indians, it was be- 
lieved, were instigated to enmity against the colonists by 
Lord Dunmore, who failed to come to Lewis' assistance, 
and this battle has been known in Virginia as the first one 
of the Revolution. It is interesting to trace here an asso- 
ciation with George Mason's family, through his brother 
Thomson's eldest son. On the site of the battle-field has 

' " Life of John Adams, ^ p. 70, American Statesmen Series. 


grown up the village of Point Pleasant, the capital of Mason 
County, now in West Virginia, the county being named 
after Stevens Thomson Mason, in 1804. In the summer of 
1774 the Fairfax County Committee of Safety had been 
organized, consisting of twenty-five of the most prominent 
citizens. These county committees were armed with con- 
siderable powers. To them the duty fell of examining 
the books of merchants to see that no prohibited articles 
were brought into the colony. And in many cases they 
raised and equipped the independent companies which 
were springing up all over Virginia. George Mason, as an 
active member of the Fairfax Committee, drew up the fol- 
lowing plan for forming the independent company of his 
county, the first, it is believed, on the continent : 

" At a meeting of a number of gentlemen and freeholders of 
Fairfax County in the Colony of Virginia on Wednesday the 
twenty-first day of September, 1774, George Mason, Esq: in the ' 
chair, the following association was formed and entered into. 

'^ In this time of extreme danger with the Indian Enemy in 
our country, and threatened with the destruction of our civil 
rights and liberty and all that is dear to British subjects and 
freemen, we the subscribers, taking into our serious consideration 
the present alarming situation of all the British colonies upon 
the continent, as well as our own, being sensible of the expedi- 
ency of putting the militia of this colony upon a more respect- 
able footing and hoping to excite others by our example, have 
voluntarily, freely and cordially entered into the following asso- 
ciation, which we each of us for ourselves respectively solemnly 
promise and pledge our honors to each other and to our country 
to perform. That we will form ourselves into a company not 
exceeding one hundred men, by the name of the Fairfax Inde- 
pendent Company of volunteers, making choice of our own 
officers to whom for the sake of good order and regularity, we 
will pay due submission. That we will meet at such times and 
places in this county as our said officers (chosen by a majority 
of the members as soon as fifty have subscribed) shall appoint r_yAA 

and direct for the purpose of learning and practising the military 



exercise and discipline ; dress in a regular uniform of blue, 
turned up with buff, with plain yellow metal buttons, buff waist- 
coat and breeches and white stockings, and furnished with a 
good flint lock and bayonet, sling cartouch box and tomahawk. 
And that we will each of us constantly keep by us a stock of six 
pounds of gun powder, twenty pounds of lead and fifty gun flints 
at the least. That we will use our utmost endeavours as well at 
musters of the said company, as by all other means in our power 
to make ourselves masters of the military exercise. And that 
I we will always hold ourselves in readiness in case of necessity, 
: hostile invasion or real danger of the commonwealth of which we 
are members, to defend to the utmost of our power the legal 
prerogatives of our sovereign King George the 3d and the just 
! right* and privileges of our country, ^ur posterity and ourselves 
upon the principles of the British Constitution. Agreed that all 
the subscribers to this association do meet on Monday the 17th 
of October next at eleven o'clock in the forenoon at the Court 
House in Alexandria." ' 

Washington's diary records that on the 15th of Janu- 
ary, 1775, he went to Pohick church, and that Colonel 
Mason with several other gentlemen came home with him 
and stayed all night. The following day he went up to 
Alexandria to a review of the Independent Company and to 
choose a committee for the county. He was under arms 
the next day and in the committee in the evening. On 
this day — the 17th of January — resolutions were passed 
by the Committee of Safety for arming and organizing the 
militia of the county.* These are understood to have been 
drafted by Colonel Mason. And the expression that occurs 
in them, " firmly determined at the hazard of our lives 
\ to transmit to our children and posterity those sacred rights 
* to which ourselves were born," so closely resembles the 
phrase quoted from George Mason's will as to confirm the 
supposition. The Maryland Convention, which had met 
on the 8th of December, 1774, had passed resolutions on 

V i ' Mason Papers. 

* "American Archives," 4th series, vol. ^., p. 1145 ; Appendix viii. 


the subject of arming the militia^ and the Fairfax Com- 
mittee state that they "do concur in opinion with the 
Provincial Committee of the Province of Maryland that a 
well-regulated militia," etc., and here they quote the exact 
phrase employed by the Marylanders to signify their ab- 
horrence of standing armies, and their conviction that the 
militia is the true defence of a free country. The same 
formula, with the alteration of a word or two, is repeated in 
the "Association," which follows, wherein the subscribers 
enroll themselves into a militia for the county. It is as 
follows : 

" And thoroughly convinced that a well regulated militia com- 
posed of the gentlemen, freeholders and other freemen, is the 
natural strength and only safe and stable security of a free gov- 
ernment, and that such militia will relieve our mother country 
from any expense in our protection and defence, will obviate the 
pretence of a necessity for taxing us on that account, and render 
it unnecessary to keep any standing army (ever dangerous to 
liberty) in this colony." 

George Mason, with his vein of sarcastic humor, was the Q[.> 

person to appreciate this " exquisite bit of argumentative 
irony," as Professor Tyler styles it in his biography of 
Patrick Henry. For Henry uses the phrase also in his 
resolutions on the subject of the militia, offered in the Con- 
vention two months later. The Fairfax County Resolutions 
were apparently the first of the kind passed in Virginia. 
And at a meeting in Augusta County in February to elect 
delegates to the March Convention, in the instructions given 
them by the County Committee they say : 

" We entirely agree in opinion with the gentlemen of Fairfax 
County, that a well-regulated mflitia is the natural strength and 
stable security of a free government, and therefore wish it might 
be recommended by the Convention to the officers and men 
of each county in Virginia to make themselves masters of the 
military exercise, published by order of his Majesty, &c." ' 

' 4, American Archives, i., 1254. 


"•>CThe resolutions of Fairfax County for arming the militia 
were passed on the 17th of January, and on the follow- 
ing day the colony celebrated Queen Charlotte's birthday. 
The good people of Williamsburg were invited to an elegant 
ball at the governor's palace, and in compliment to the Old 
Dominion, Lord Dunmore's youngest daughter was chris- 
tened Virginia on the afternoon of the Queen's birthday.*/ 
The mimic court at Williamsburg was exerting all its powers 
to please, but the patriots were not to be turned aside, and 
the work of preparation went forward, v^ In the following 
letter, written by Colonel Mason to George Washington the 
6th of February, reference is made to a plan " for embody- 
ing the people," which he sends to his correspondent : 

GuNSTON Hall, Feb. 6, 1775. 

Dear Sir : 

My friend Col. Harrison (who is now at your house) promised 
to spend a day or two with me on his way down. I beg the favor 
of you to present my compliments to him, and excuse my being 
under the disagreeable necessity of being from home until the 
latter end of this week, when if he is not gone down, I shall be 
very glad to see him here. . . . Enclosed you have a copy 
of the plan I drew for embodying the people of this county, in 
which you '11 be pleased to make such alterations as you think 
necessary. You will observe I have made it as general as I well 
could ; this I thought better at first than to descend to particulars 
of uniform, &c., which perhaps may be more easily done when 
the companies are made up. 

I suppose you have seen the King's speech and the address of 
both Houses in the last Maryland paper ; from the style in which 
they speak of the Americans I think they have little hopes of a 
speedy redress of grievances, but on the contrary we may expect 
to see coercion and vindictive measures still pursued. It seems 
as if the King either had not received or was determined to take 
no notice of the proceedings of the Congress. 

I beg my compliments to Mrs Washington and the family at 

Mount Vernon 

and am dear Sir 

yr. affec. and obdt. servant 

G. M 

' Virginia GatetU^ January 19, 1775. 


P. S. — I beg pardon for having almost forgot to say anything 
in answer to your favor respecting the choice of delegates from 
this county to attend the Convention at Richmond. It appears 
to me that the Burgesses for the county are our proper represen- 
tatives upon this occasion ; and that the best method to remove 
all doubt or objection, as well as to save trouble, will be for the 
County Committee to meet and make an entry and declaration of 
this, as their opinion. * 

Would it not be proper for the Committee of Correspondence 
to write to the two Mr. Fitzhughs, Mr. Turberville, and such 
other gentlemen as live out of this county and have Quarters 
in it, acquainting them with the orders of the Committee relative 
to the payment of 3/ for each Tythable, and desiring them to 
give their overseers, or agents here orders accordingly ? 

G. M.' 

On his return from Maryland, where he had been to visit 
his mother-in-law, who was ill. Colonel Mason wrote again to 
Washington : 

GUNSTON Hall, February 17th, 1775. 

Dear Sir : 

I returned from Maryland but last night, not being able to 
leave Mrs. Eilbeck sooner, and don't know how quickly I may 
be called there again, as I think she is far from being out of 

I will if I can be at Alexandria on Monday ; but it is 
uncertain, as well for the reason above-mentioned, as that I 
am at this time unwell with a bad cold and a little pain in 
my breast. 

I can't conceive how Mr. Harper could make such a mistake 
as to buy double the quantity of powder wanted for this county, 
when he had the order in writing signed by you and me. If there 
is any ambiguity in the said writing (for I don't now recollect the 
words) by which Mr. Harper might be led into such a mistake, I 
think we are in honor bound to take the whole off his hands ; 
otherwise it does not appear to me that he can reasonably expect 
it ; though I am exceedingly concerned that any kind of mis- 
understanding should happen in an affair which must have given 
Mr. tiarper a good deal of trouble, and which I am convinced 

' Washington MSS., State Department. 


was undertaken by him merely from public motives, and a desire 
to oblige the Committee. I remember your mentioning in con- 
versation, to Mr. Harper, an application made to you from 
Loudon County to procure a quantity of powder for their Com- 
mittee, upon six months' credit, and telling him if it could be 
purchased in Philadelphia upon such credit you would see the 
money paid when it became due ; to which he answered that 
powder was generally a ready-money article there, and at this 
time in particular he did not imagine it could be got upon credit. 
I speak from recollection (having had no concern in the affair), 
but as nearly as I can remember this is the substance of what 
passed between you and him respecting the Loudon Committee, 
and may possibly have occasioned the mistake ; at least I can 
account for it in no other way. 

I have already paid Messrs. McCrea and Maire half their 
account. And my half the money due to Mr. Harper for the 
articles ordered for Fairfax County, is at any minute ready, 
having kept a sum in gold by me for that purpose, that Mr. 
Harper should not be disappointed in the payment ; but if it will 
be attended with no inconvenience to him, it will suit me better 
to make the payment ten days hence than now, because I think 
in that time I can collect good part of the money from the peo- 
ple, and as the collection will be partly in paper dollars and 
Pennsylvania money, which, from Mr. Harper's connections to 
the Northward, may suit him as well, or perhaps better than gold, 
yet it will not replace the gold with equal convenience to me. I 
mention this only as matter of mutual convenience, at the same 
time making a point not to disappoint Mr. Harper ; and I must 
beg the favor of you to communicate this to him, that I may send 
up the money whenever he wants it, without giving him any trouble 
on the subject.* 

I shall send my son George out immediately to make what col- 
lection he can, being furnished with a list of Tythables for that 
purpose. If you incline to do anything of that kind, you shall 
have a copy of the list, distinguishing those who have paid to 
him. I think this method will reimburse us sooner, and save 
commissions and trouble to the sheriff. 

' This is probably the " Capt. Harper " of Fairfax County, to whom George 
Mason refers in a letter of July, 1778. 


I had gone a good way through the bill for improving the navi- 
gation of Potowmack before I went to Maryland, and am happy 
in finding that I had fallen into many of Mr. Johnston's senti- 
ments, though I was a stranger to them, till I received your letter 
upon my return last night. I wish it was in my power to spend 
a day with him on the subject. Some of his remarks are not so 
intelligible to me as they would be if I had all the queries which 
he seems to answer. What he mentions of some kind of jealousy 
least the Virginians should have some advantage, and that there 
should be some equality between the Maryland and Virginia 
subscriptions, I can have no idea of. What matter is it whether 
the majority of the subscribers are Marylanders or Virginians, if 
their property is put upon an equal footing, and the work is of 
general advantage to both provinces ? Nor can I think his notion 
of proportioning the tolls to the average profits can well be re- 
duced to practise. A sufficient sum can't be raised by those only 
who are locally interested ; men who are not will not advance 
their money upon so great a risk, but with views of great and in- 
creasing profit, not to depend upon future alterations. The tolls, 
to be sure, must be moderate, such as the commodities will bear, 
with advantage to the makers. It is probable for some years 
they will yield very little profit to the undertakers, perhaps none ; 
they must run the risk of this, as well as of the utter failure of 
the undertaking, and surely if they succeed, they have a just right 
to the increased profits, though in process of time they may be- 
come very great. If I am not misinformed, this is the principle 
upon which everything of this nature has been successfully exe- 
cuted in other countries. My paper will not permit me to add 
more at present than that I am, 

Dear Sir, 
Your affectionate and obedient servant, 

G. Mason.' 

The following letter to Washington, written in March, 
relates to purchases made for the Fairfax County Commit- 
tee, and to the bill which Colonel Mason was preparing, at 
his friend's instance, for the improvement of the Potomac 
River navigation : 

'Washington MSS., Department of Sute. 


GuNSTON Hall, March gth, 1775. 

Dear Sir : 

I have at last finished the Potomack River Bill, which I now 
send you, together with some very long remarks thereon, and a 
letter to Mr. Johnston, into which you '11 be pleased to put a 
wafer, when you forward the other papers to him. 

I also return the Acts of Assembly, and Mr. Johnston's notes^ 
which you sent me. This affair has taken me five times as long 
as I expected ; and I do assure you I never engaged in anything 
which puzzled me more ; there were such a number of con- 
tingencies to provide for and drawing up laws — a thing so much 
out of my way. I shall be well pleased if the pains I have 
bestowed upon the subject prove of any service to so great an 
undertaking ; but by what I can understand, there will be so 
strong an opposition from Baltimore and the head of the Bay as 
will go near to prevent its passage through the Maryland Assem- 
bly in any shape it can be offered. 

I suppose you have heard of the late purchase made by some 
North Carolina gentlemen from the Cherokee Indians, of all the 
country between the Great Conhaway \sic\ and the Tennessee 

I think considering this colony has just expended about ;£ioo,- 
000 upon the defence of that country, that this is a pretty bold 
stroke of the gentlemen. It is suspected some of our Virginia 
gentlemen are privately concerned in it. I have always expected 
that the newfangled doctrine lately broached, of the Crown's 
having no title beyond the Alleghany Mountains till after the 
purchase at Fort Stanwix, would produce a thousand other 
absurdities and squabbles. However, if I am not mistaken, the 
Crown, at that treaty, purchased of the Six Nations all the lands 
as low as the Tennessee River. So now, I suppose, we must 
have a formal trial, whether the Six Nations or the Cherokees 
had the legal right ; but whether this is to be done by ejectment, 
writ of enquiry, writ of partition or what other process, let those 
who invented this curious distinction determine. The inatten- 
tion of our Assembly to so grand an object, as the right of this 
colony to the Western lands is inexcusable, and the confusion it 
will introduce endless. 

If I knew when you set off for the Convention at Richmond I 


would trouble you with two or three Virginia Cavalry Bills, to 
make my second payment to Mr. Mazzay as I may not perhaps 
have an opportunity of sending it in April. 

We make but a poor hand of collecting ; very few pay, though 
everybody promises except Mr. Hartshorn, of Alexandria, who 
flatly refused ; his conscience I suppose would not suffer him 
to be concerned in paying for the instruments of death. George 
has been very unwell for some days past ; as soon as he gets well 
he intends [going] up into the forest. 

The family here join in their compliments to Mrs. Washington 
and the family at Mount Vernon, 
With, Dear Sir, 

Your affectionate humble Servant, 

G. Mason.' 

A messenger from " Mount Vernon " arrived that very 
day at " Gunston Hall," and Colonel Mason wrote a second 
letter of the same date in reply to his friend. In it he says: 
" I beg you to inform Mr. Johnston the bill I have drawn 
is intended only as a ground-work, and that I desire every 
part of it may be submitted to his correction." He sends 
Washington, as he tells him, ** some cherry-graffs, May-dukes 
and large black May cherries '* for his garden. 

The Potomac Company, afterwards merged into the Chesa- 
peake and Ohio Canal Company, of which we hear something 
at the present day, was projected at least as early as 1762, 
and was part of the scheme of the Ohio Company for devel- 
oping the Western lands. At a meeting held in Frederick, 
Maryland, in May, 1762, a number of prominent gentlemen 
were elected managers, and Col. George Mercer was one of 
the two treasurers appointed, the other one being a Mary- 
lander. George Mason's Potomac River bill was designed 
to obtain the necessary legislation on the subject. Thomas 
Johnson, afterwards Governor of Maryland, and a member 
in 1774 of the Continentatl Congress, was the gentleman on 
the northern side of the Potomac who was at the head of 
this project in 1774, while Washington and George Mason 
were its most prominent advocates in Virginia. Washing- 


ton wrote to Thomas Jefferson as early as 1770 in reply to 
the latter, and discussed the scheme of opening the inland 
navigation of the Potomac by private subscription. He 
looked forward, he said, to seeing '^ the Potomac a channel 
of commerce between Great Britain and the immense west- 
em territory, a tract of country unfolding to our view." He 
advocated " a more extensive plan " than one proposed by 
Thomas Johnson, as a "means of becoming a channel of the 
extensive trade of a rising empire."* The company was 
formed, consisting of twenty or more gentlemen in Virginia, 
and an equal number in Maryland, and a meeting was called 
at Georgetown on the 12th of November, 1774, to appoint 
from among the whole number of trustees a small and con- 
venient number to act for the whole. Heading the list of 
the Virginia gentlemen are the names of George Washing, 
ton, George Mason, Thomsoh Mason, Bryan Fairfax, Daniel 
McCarty, and John Carlyle. * The work was commenced, 
but abandoned a year later, as the Maryland Act of Assem- 
bly co-operating with Virginia had not been obtained." Ten 
years later, when the scheme was about to be revived, Wash- 
ington alludes, in a letter to Jefferson, to these earlier efforts. 

" Despairing of any aid from the public," he writes, " I 
became the principal mover of a bill to empower a number 
of subscribers to undertake, at their own expense, on con- 
ditions which were expressed, the extension of the navigation 
[of the Potomac] from tide water to Will's Creek, about 
one hundred and fifty miles. . . . The plan, however, 
was in a tolerably good trim when I set out for Cambridge 
in 1775, and would have been in an excellent way had it not 
been for the difficulties met with in the Maryland Assembly. 
. . . In this situation I left matters when I took command 
of the army. The war afterwards called men's attention to 
different objects, and all the money they* could or would 
raise was applied to other purposes." * 

' Stewart's Report. First session, Nineteenth Congress. 

' Virginia Gatette^ November 10, 1774. 

^ Ibid,, November 2, 1775. 

^ " Writings of Washington.** Sparks, vol. ix., p. 30. 




The Convention met in Richmond on the 20th of March, 
177s, and it was then that Patrick Henry offered his memor' 
able resolutions, " that the colony be immediately put in a 
state of defence, etc." The battle of Lexington was fought 
on the 19th of April, and George Mason, in his patriotic 
enthusiasm, named one of his plantations " Lexington " in 
honor of the event. Washington's journal records that on 
the l6th of April he had a number of visitors. General 
Charles Lee was one of them, and Mr. Harry Lee, Jr., 
" Light Horse Harry " that was to be. Colonel Mason came 
in the afternoon, and stayed all night. The next day they 
went together to Alexandria to a committee meeting and 
" to a new choice of del^ates." 

On the 20th of May Colonel Mason wrote to William 
Lee, who was still in London, notifying him that he had 
shipped one hundred hogsheads of Vii^nla, Potomac River, 
tobacco by the ship Adventure. The letter goes on to say : 

" I expect the certainty of the exports being stopped here on 
the tenth of September next, if not much sooner, will raise what 
tobacco gets to market to an amazing price : indeed was there 
not this extraordinary cause, I think tobacco must be high, 
which is my reason for shipping so largely. People in general 
have not prepared this year for crops of tobacco as usual ; and 
even those who have will be able to make very little, from the 
uncommon scarcity of plants, greater than in the noted year 
. 191 


1758, or perhaps than ever was known within the memory of 
man, and the season now too far advanced to raise more. You 
may depend upon this information as a certain fact, in all the 
upper parts of Virginia and Maryland. What is the case in the 
lower parts, I do not certainly know ; but from the weather I 
have no doubt but that this scarcity of plants is general through 
the two colonies." ' 

The year before, in the same month, JefTerson, at " Monti- 
cello," had noted in his garden book a severe frost which 
had killed many of the tobacco plants and was "equally 
destructive through the whole country."' Eleven days 
after writing this letter to William Lee, George Mason 
wrote to Richard Henry Lee, then in Congress: 

GuNSTON Hall, May 31, 1775. 

Dear Sir : 

My son George has a mind to spend some days in Philadelphia, 
while the Congress is sitting ; and as he has been yet very little in 
the world, and young fellows are too apt to fall into bad company 
in a place where they have few acquaintance, I must presume 
so far on your friendship as to recommend him to your notice 
and advice, for which I am sure he will be thankful. 

We hear nothing from the Congress : I presume their delibera- 
tions are (as they ought to be) a profound secret. I hope the 
procuring arms and ammunition next winter when the ships of 
war can't cruise upon our coasts, as well as the means of laying 
in good magazines of provisions, &c., to the northward will be 
properly attended to. 

I could almost wish that we paid the ministry the compliment 
of stopping our exports to Great Britain and the West Indies at 
the same time their Restraining Bill takes place, that our opera- 
tions might have a fair start with theirs, and our measures have 
the appearance of reprizal. I think you are happy in having 
Dr. Franklin at the Congress, as I imagine no man better knows 
the intentions of the ministry, the temper of the nation, and the 
interest of the minority. 

"MS. Letter. "Randall's ••Jefferson," vol. i., p. 76. 


The ship you expected from your brother in York River ha3 
been arrived about a fortnight. The Adventure, I believe, will 
sail next week. She has been delayed a good deal by the 
scarcity of craft. My hundred hogsheads (ninety of them in our 
warehouse) were all ready before the ship came out of Rappa- 
hannock, and in order to give her all the dispatch in my power 
(hearing the captain would not engage sufficient craft) I em- 
ployed craft myself to carry sixty hogsheads on board. I have 
wrote by two or three different vessels for insurance at ;^ii str. 
p. hhd. ; but if you have an opportunity of writing to your 
brother from Philadelphia I should be glad to have the order 

I most sincerely wish you health and happiness, and am, dear 


Yr. aff. and obdt. servant, 

G. Mason.' 

By Captain Brown of the Adventure George Mason wrote 
more fully to William Lee, and this second letter has also 
been preserved. The home of William Lee when in Vir- 
glnia was at " Greenspring," associated in Virginia history 
with Sir William Berkeley, whose widow had married Philip 
Ludwell, ancestor of the Lees. William Lee married his 
cousin, Hannah Phillippa Ludwell. 

Virginia, Gunston Hall, June ist, 1775. 
Dear Sir : 

I wrote you the 20th last month, informing you that I should 
ship you one hundred Hhds. of Tobo. pr. the Adventure, Capt. 
Brown (and sent duplicates pr. different ships) to which I beg 
leave to refer. As I don't expect the bills of lading will come 
to my hands before the Adventure sails, I have desired the favor 
of Mr. Edwd. Brown to inclose you one of the bills of lading 
pr. the ship ; and least any mistake should be made in the bill of 
lading, or the ship's books, I think it proper to send you an 
exact list of the said hundred Hhds. Seventy Hhds. thereof 
marked G.M. — G."M., G.°M., and G.'^M. are my own crops at 
different Quarters ; the thirty Hhds. marked G."M. are rent to- 
bacco, but mostly good planter's crops ; they were originally in 

* Lee Papers, University of Virginia. {Soutkim Lit. Mestengtr, Oct, 1858.) 


the planter's marks ; but I ordered them to be re-marked and 
numbered, as mentioned in the inclosed list. I hope they will 
come to an excellent market, and don't doubt your making the 
most of them ; indeed I should imagine, in the present situation 
of affairs, tobacco must rise to a price not known before in the 
present century : but I think it not improbable that the Farlia- 
ment may stop the export from Great Britain, an^ prolong the 
time for payment of the duties, in order to keep a stock for the 
home consumption. Should you find this likely to happen, I 
must desire that my tobacco may be sold before the next meet- 
ing of Parliament, as such a measure would greatly reduce the 
price, and I am apprehensive that more than ordinary caution 
will be necessary in selling to safe hands, as few houses can 
stand such a shock as the stoppage of the American trade will 
give. These are suggestions of my own ; I think they are not 
ill founded, and submit them to your consideration. You may 
with the greatest certainty rely upon the stoppage of our exports 
on the loth of September next, if not sooner ; I am inclined to 
think they will cease in July, that the operations here may have 
a fair start with your Fishery and Restraining Bills, which 
instead of dissolving or weakening the American Associations, 
will only serve to rivet them by convincing all ranks of people 
what they have to expect from the present ministry. 

The Americans were pretty unanimous before, but the acts of 
the present session of Parliament, and the blood lately shed at 
Boston have fixed every wavering mind, and there are no difficulties 
or hardships which they are not determined to encounter with 
firmness and perseverance. God only knows the event, and in His 
hands, confiding in the justice of our cause, we cheerfully trust it ! 
The Junto before this reaches you, will find how egregiously 
they have been misinformed and mistaken in the defection they 
expected in New York, North Carolina, and among the Quakers 
of Pennsylvania. The New Yorkers no longer hesitate to join 
with the other colonies in all their measures for obtaining re- 
dress ; — the Quakers, to the surprise of everybody, are arming 
and learning the military discipline ; thirty-two companies of 
the citizens of Philadelphia appear regularly every morning at 
sunrise upon the public parade, and as a sample of the defection 
of North Carolina I send you Governor Martin's speech to his 


Assembly and their address. The Provincials have possessed 
themselves of Ticonderoga and Crown Point, and we have a 
report here that a deputation of eight Indian chiefs from the 
Six Nations is arrived at Philadelphia to offer the assistance 
of their people in the common cause of America, but this wants 

There is a full meeting of the members of the Congress, but 
nothing from it has as yet transpired, except their advice to the 
people of New York, respecting their conduct in case of i, the 
arrival of troops there, which no doubt you will have transmitted 
in the Northern papers. 

I beg my compliments to your lady, with whom I formerly had 
the honour of being acquainted at '' Green Spring/' and desire 
to be remembered to your brother, of whose welfare and yours 
it will always give me pleasure to hear. 

I am, dear sir, 

Your most obedient servant, 

G. Mason.* 

In a letter of George Mason's, to be given later, written 
in 1778, there is the following allusion to the Fairfax Inde- 
pendent Company organized by the Fairfax Committee in 
September, 1 774 : " My eldest son George engaged early in 
the American cause, and was chosen ensign in the first In- 
dependent Company formed in Virginia, and indeed on the 
continent. It was commanded by the present General Wash- 
ington, as captain, and consisted entirely of gentlemen." 
The Independent Companies were soon to give way to the 
Minute Regiments, a part of the military establishment of 
Virginia Colonel Mason was instrumental in organizing 
while in the July convention of 1775. And George Mason, 
Jr., then a young man of twenty-two, was appointed in this 
year a captain of foot in one of the first Minute Regiments 
raised in Virginia. The Independent Companies, while they 
lasted, were warlike enough in intention, as . in act also, 
where opportunity offered. When the powder was removed 
from Williamsburg in April, 1775, they came eagerly to the 

' MS. Letter. 




rescue, and Hugh Mercer wrote from Fredericksburg to 
Colonel Washington that he expected to be joined by gen- 
tlemen from Fairfax and Prince William. While in Phila- 
delphia attending the first Congress, we are told that " Cap- 
tain Washington " of the Independent Company of Fairfax 
made contracts for their equipments, etc.* On the 15th of 
June, 1775, he was appointed commander-in-chief, and five 
days later Washington wrote a farewell letter to the several 
Independent Companies of Virginia, which had elected him 
as their commanding officer, and this letter was sent to the 
Fairfax Company, to be transmitted by them to the other 
organizations. The Fairfax Company replied deploring their 
loss of the " patron, friend, and worthy citizen," while ten- 
dering their " hearty congratulations " at his appointment.* 
At a meeting of the Fairfax Company in Alexandria, 
previous to Washington's resignation, there was a motion 
made that the officers should be elected annually, and 
Colonel Mason prepared a paper to be read in support 
of the measure. It is a remarkable and interesting docu- 
ment, for in it is to be found an anticipation of the doctrines 
and phrases which are associated with the great public char- 
ters of 1776 — the Virginia Bill of Rights, and the Declara- 
tion of Independence. Colonel Mason reminds the gentlemen 
of the company, as a profound politician had wisely observed, 
" that no institution can be long preserved, but by frequent 
recurrence to those maxims on which it was formed." And 
he continues : 

'' We came equal into this world, and equal shall we go out of 
it. All men are by nature born equally free and independent. 
. • . Every society, all government, and every kind of civil 
compact, therefore, is or ought to be calculated for the general 
good and safety of the community. Every power, every authority 
vested in particular men is, or ought to be, ultimately directed to 
this sole end ; and whenever any power or authority extends fur- 

* "Life and Writings of Washington/' Sparks, vol. ii., Appendix xii. 
*/M(/., vol. iii., p. 4, and note to p. $• 


ther, or is of longer duration than is in its nature necessary for 
these purposes, it may be called government^ but it is in fact op- 
pression. ... In all our associations, in all our agreements, 
let us never lose sight of this fundamental maxim — that all power 
was originally lodged in and consequently is derived from the * •. / 
people. We should wear it as a breast-plate and buckle it on as ) "^ 
an armour." ^ 

The writer alludes to the fact that " this part of the coun- 
try has the glory of setting so laudable an example,** as the 
formation of the company evinces, where " gentlemen of the 
first fortune and character among us have become members 
. . . have submitted to stand in the ranks as common 
soldiers, and to pay due obedience to the officers of their 
own choice." It was understood that the rotation of officers 
advocated was not to apply to the captain, to whom is paid 
the following compliment : 

" The exception made in favor of the gentleman, who, by the 
unanimous voice of the company, now commands it, is a very 
proper one justly due to his public merit and experience ; 
it is peculiarly suited to our circumstances, and was dictated, 
not by compliment, but by conviction.'* ■ 

George Mason made his first appearance in Virginia's 
revolutionary councils at the July Convention, 1775. On 
the 1st of June the General Assembly met in Williamsburg. 
But the affair of the gunpowder, which had been secretly 
removed by the governor from the capitol, and was found 
afterwards stored in a magazine, created such an excitement 
among the burgesses and the community in general that 
Dunmore became alarmed and took refuge on board the 
Fowey. Then followed negotiations between the fugitive 
governor on the water and the deserted legislature on land, 
each refusing to go to the other. The Assembly finally 
voted that the executive had abdicated his office, and they 
forthwith dissolved themselves, on the 24th of June, never 

' Appendix ix. 


to meet again under royal rule. The battle of Bunker Hill 
was fought on the i/th, and the colonies felt themselves 
committed to revolution. When Washington was made 
commander-in-chief his place became vacant in the Virginia 
Convention — a convention more than ever necessary, as on 
it now devolved the offices of both the defunct legislature 
and executive, — and George Mason was fixed upon as Wash- 
ington's successor. Colonel Mason at first hesitated about 
accepting this nomination. He was ready with his pen 
always, as has been seen, to serve his country, but his 
personal attention he thought was needed by his motherless 
children. On hearing of the proposal to elect him a deputy 
from Fairfax County, he wrote the following letter declining 
the honor : 

GuNSTON Hall, July 11, 1775. 

Dear Sir : 

My friend Mr. Massey sent me yesterday the advertisement for 
a meeting of the freeholders to-morrow, with a letter from you on 
the subject ; which was the first notice of the county having any 
intention of requiring my attending the Convention at Richmond 
next week as one of its representatives. And though ambition 
has no longer charms for me I am extremely sensible of the obli- 
gation I am under to you and the other gentlemen of Alexandria 
for your favorable opinion. I have considered the matter with 
the best judgment I am capable of, and am sincerely concerned 
that my situation in life will not permit me to accept the 

I entreat you, Sir, to reflect on the duty I owe to a poor little 

helpless family of orphans to whom I now must act the part of 

father and mother both, and how incompatible such an ofRce 

would be with the daily attention they require. This I will not 

enlarge on. Your own feelings will best explain it ; and I rely 

on your friendship to excuse me to the gentlemen of the committee 

and my other friends. 

I am dear Sir, &c., 

G. Mason. 
To William Ramsay, Esq. : 


* Mason Papers. 


The Convention met on Monday, the 17th of July. On 
the following day it resolved itself into a committee of the 
whole, to take into consideration the state of the colony, 
and on Wednesday this committee offered the following 
resolution : " That a sufficient armed force be immediately 
raised and embodied, under proper officers, for the defence 
and protection of this colony." Randall in his biography 
of Jefferson, referring to the resolution of Henry, in March, 
and his bold advocacy of defensive preparations, says : 

" This unexpected and lo the body of the Convention startling 
proposition produced a most painful effect on the minds of many 
members. The old moderate leaders, Nicholas, Bland, and 
Pendleton, the two last members of the late Congress, Harrison, 
also a member, even Wythe shrunk back from the yawning gulf. 

. . . The resolution was supported by its mover and by R. 
H. Lee, and earnestly pressed by Jefferson, Mason, Page, and by 
the leaders of what may be termed the movement party." * 

George Mason was not in the March Convention, but he 
had answered the call of patriotism, and was now present in 
July, a leader, as always, in the " movement party." He 
had early declared his views as to putting the colony in a 
state of defence, and as a member of the Fairfax Com- 
mittee, had given a practical demonstration of these 
opinions ; but on entering the July Convention he opposed 
all violent measures, exerted himself to prevent the confisca* 
tion of the king's quit-rents, and it was not until after the 
rejection by the king of the second petition of Congress, 
made on the 8th of July, that he believed in the necessity of 
declaring independence. Seventeen of the most prominent 
members of the Convention were appointed a committee to 
bring in an ordinance pursuant to the resolution for raising 
troops, and these included Richard Bland, Robert Carter 
Nicholas, James Mercer, Joseph Jones, George Mason, 
Thomas Ludwell Lee, and Carter Braxton." Three days 

' ** Life of Jefferson," vol. i., p. 100. 
'Journal of the Convention. 



after the opening of the Convention, George Mason gave 
notice that on the following Monday he should offer a 
resolve. This was a non-exportation resolution, a measure 
which, we have seen, he had much at heart. And accord- 
ingly, on Monday, the 24th, the resolve was offered by him, 
and, after a long debate, carried by a large majority. This 
we learn through a letter of George Mason's, written on the 
evening of the same day. The journal simply gives the 
resolve without naming its author. It was in these words : 

^^ Resolved^ That no flour, wheat, or other grain, or provisions 
of any kind, be exported from this colony, to any part of the 
world, from and after the flfth day of August next, until the 
Convention or Assembly, or the honorable the Continental Con- 
gress, shall order otherwise; that no quantities of the said 
articles, more than are necessary for the use of the inhabitants, 
be brought to, collected, or stored in the towns or other places 
upon or near the navigable waters ; that the respective County 
Committees be directed to take care that this resolve be effectu- 
ally carried into execution, and that all contracts made for the 
sale and delivery of any such articles for exportation, between 
this time and the tenth day of September next, be considered as 
null and void." * 

The following letter to Martin Cockburn gives an interest- 
ing picture of the busy scene upon which George Mason had 
now entered. And it will be noticeable that from the first 
his energy and talent commanded recognition. 

Richmond, July 24th, 1775. 
Dear Sir : 

Having an opportunity pr. Edw'd Blackburn (who promises to 

drop this at Colchester) I snatch a moment to let you know that 

I am well, and to desire to be kindly remembered to my dear 

children, and the family at " Springfleld." I have not since I 

came to this place, except the fast-day and Sunday, had an hour 

which I could call my own. The committee (of which I am a 

member) appointed to prepare an ordinance for raising an 



armed force for the defence and protection of this colony, meet 
every morning at seven o'clock, sit till the Convention meets, 
which seldom rises before five in the afternoon, and immediately 
after dinner and a little refreshment sits again till nine or ten at 
night. This is hard duty, and yet we have hitherto made but 
little progress, and I think shall not be able to bring in the 
ordinance till late next week, if then. This will not be wondered 
at when the extent and importance of the business before us is 
reflected on — to raise forces for immediate service — to new-model 
the whole militia — to render about one-fifth of it fit for the field 
at the shortest warning — to melt down all the volunteer and inde- 
pendent companies into this great establishment — to provide 
arms, ammunition, &c., — and to point out ways and means of 
raising money, these are difficulties indeed ! Besides tempering 
the powers of a Committee of Safety to superintend the execu- 
tion. Such are the great outlines of the plans in contemplation. 
I think I may venture to assert (though nothing is yet fixed on) 
that in whatever way the troops are raised, or the militia regu- 
lated, the staff officers only will be appointed by Convention, and 
the appointment of all the others devolve upon the county com- 
mittees. If the colony is parcelled into different districts for 
raising a battalion in each, I have proposed that the committees 
of each county in the district appoint deputies of their own 
members for the purpose ; so that every county may have an 
equal share in the choice of officers for the battalion, which 
seems to be generally approved. 

On Wednesday last I gave notice in Convention, that on Mon- 
day I should offer the inclosed resolve ; which was accordingly 
done this day, and after a long debate, carried by a great major- 
ity. The Convention will to-morrow appoint a delegate to the 
Congress in the room of General Washington, when I believe 
Mr. Wythe will be almost unanimously chosen. As there will be 
other vacancies, I have been a good deal pressed by some of my 
friends to serve at the Congress, but shall firmly persist in a 
refusal, and thereby I hope prevent their making any such pro- 
posal in the Convention. 

I enclose a letter for my son George (though I suppose he is 
before this time set off for the Springs) which by some strange 
mistake came to me from Alexandria per post. We have no 





news but what is contained in the public papers, which you 
generally get sooner than we can here. 

I am, Dr. Sir, your affectionate Friend and Servant, 

G. Mason.' 

We learn from this letter how laborious were the duties 
of the committee, of which George Mason was so important 
a member, and we hear also of the earnest desire of his 
friends that he should enter Congress. A number of new 
members were added later to the committee for preparing 
the military establishment, but it was decided that eleven 
would be sufficient at any time to proceed to business. In 
a short time this body reported resolutions recommending 
companies to be stationed at Pittsburg, then a part of Vir- 
ginia territory, at Point Pleasant, Fincastle, and other places 
to protect the inhabitants from the Indians. Various matters 
occupied the attention of the Convention ; the case of Richard 
Bland, who asked for an investigation of false reports that 
had been circulated to his injury, and who was fully exon- 
erated ; a plan for making saltpetre from trash tobacco ; 
petitions of officers who wanted to take the public monies 
from the hands of the Royalist Receiver-General ; petitions 
of merchants who considered themselves hardly treated by 
the non-exportation resolution. On Saturday, the 5th of 
August, the balloting took place for officers to command 
the regulars to be enlisted. Patrick Henry was made 
colonel of the first regiment, Thomas Nelson of the sec- 
ond, and William Woodford of the third regiment.* 
George Mason sat down on the evening of this same Satur- 
day to report the progress of affairs to Mr. Cockburn. He 
had been unwell, it seems, and had not attended the Con- 
vention for several days. On this day, however, he was 
able to be present, and he was to go out of town to spend 
Sunday with a friend. 

» "Virginia Hist. Register," vol. if., p. ai ; "Virginia Calendar Papers," 
vol. i., p. 267. 
* Journal of the Convention. 


Richmond, Aug. 95. 1775. 
Dear Sir : 

Capt. Grayson informing me that he shall set out on his return 
home to-morrow, I take the opportunity of writing to you, 
though I have nothing very agreeable to communicate. We 
are getting into great confusion here, and I fear running the 
country to an expence it will not be able to bear — 3,000 men are 
voted as a body of standing troops, to be forthwith raised and 
formed into three regiments, the first to be commanded by Mr. 
Patrick Henry, the second by Col. Thos. Nelson, and the third 
by Mr. Wm. Woodford — a great push was made for CoL Mercer 
of Fredericksburg to the ist. Regiment ; but he lost it by a few 
votes, upon the question between him and Mr. Henry ; though 
he had a majority upon the ballot. 

The expence of the last Indian war will be near ^150,000, 
our share of the expence of the Continental Army ;^ 150,000 
more, the charge of the troops now raising, and the minute-men 
with their arms ;^35o,ooo; these added together will make 
an enormous sum, and there are several charges still behind ; 
such as the volunteer companies at Williamsburg, the payment 
of the members of the Convention, &c. — however, nothing b 
yet absolutely conclusive, and some abridgement may yet 
perhaps be made ; though at present there is little prospect 
of it. 

As it is proposed that a company of fifty men for the standing 
army shall be raised in each county, my son George may perhaps 
have a mind to enter into the service ; in which case, pray tell 
him that it will be very contrary to my inclination, and that I 
advise him by all means against it — when the plan for the min- 
ute-men is completed, if he has a mind to enter into that I shall 
have no objection ; as I look upon it to be the true, natural and 
safe defence of this, or any other free country, and as such wish 
to see it encouraged to the utmost. I should have wrote to him 
but that it was uncertain whether he was at home, or at the 

I have been very unwell, and unable to attend the Convention 
for two or three days, but am now getting better and attended 
again to-day, and I am going out to-morrow to visit a friend in the 
country. God knows when I shall get home again-— ^remember me 



kindly to my dear children — the family at " Spring-field " and all 

friends ; and believe me, dear Sir, 

Yr. affect, friend and servant, 

G. Mason.' 

Colonel Mason, as it will be seen, was fully alive to the 
difficulties the Convention had to contend with, and he was 
fearful that they were undertaking more than the resources 
of the colony justified, in providing so large a body of 
troops. It was not until the 9th of August that Patrick 
Henry, Edmund Pendleton, Benjamin Harrison, and Thomas 
Jeflerson took their seats in the Convention ; Richard Henry 
Lee arriving on the following day. Congress, which had 
been in session since May, took a month's recess at this 
time, in order that the Virginia delegation might attend the 
Convention.' Important business was before the Conven- 
tion on the loth of August, the appointment of members 
of Congress in place of Edmund Pendleton, who had re- 
signed on occount of his health, George Washington and 
Patrick Henry, who had each military offices that inca- 
pacitated them for civil service. It has been seen that 
George Mason's friends had urged him to accept a seat in 
Congress, and now two thirds of the Convention waited on 
him to beg him to accept a nomination. But he remained 
firm in his first resolve, believing that others could serve the 
country as well, and that his family required his care. 
Peyton Randolph, Richard Henry Lee, Jeflerson, Harrison, 
Nelson, Bland, and Wythe were appointed for the ensuing 
year. But Bland, on the day following, in a speech thanking 
the Convention for the honor paid him, declined serving 
on account of his advanced age. And then for the third 
time George Mason was pressed to accept the office, Patrick 
Henry and Jeflerson heading the party who urged it upon 
him. He was obliged to declare before the Convention his 

'"Virginia Historical Register," vol. if., p. 21; "Virginia Calendar 
Papers," vol. !., p. 268. 
■ 4, "American Archives," iii., i. 


reasons for refusing, and this was done with so much feeling 
as to call tears to the eyes of the president of the Con- 
vention, Peyton Randolph. Colonel Mason recommended 
Francis Lightfoot Lee in his place, and he received the 
majority of votes, though Carter Braxton was within one of 
obtaining it. George Mason was on the committee to ex- 
amine the ballot-box, and he found one ballot for himself, 
dropped in by some persistent admirer, determined to signify 
his choice, though throwing away his vote. 

This balloting took place on the 15th, and on the i6th 
of August an important resolve passed the Convention. 
It was to this effect : that " for the more effectual carrying 
into execution the several rules and regulations established 
for the defence and protection of the colony, a Committee of 
Safety be appointed to consist of eleven members, to sit for 
one year, and not to hold military office after the end of this 
session." The Convention also on this day ordered that a 
general test oath be drawn up to be used in the colony, " and 
that Mr. Parker and Mr. George Mason do prepare and bring 
in the same." On the following day the balloting took place 
for the members of the Committee of Safety. Colonel Mason 
had been reluctant to serve here too, for the same reason that 
he had declined a seat in Congress. But he was told that 
his friends would take no refusal. The names of those who 
composed this distinguished council were Edmund Pendle- 
ton, George Mason, John Page, Richard Bland, Thomas 
Ludwell Lee, Paul Carrington, Dudley Digges, William 
Cabell, Carter Braxton, James Mercer, and John Tabb. On 
the ballot for the eleven names on the tickets, Edmund 
Pendleton received seventy-seven votes, and George Mason 
seventy-two, the lowest number received being thirty-six. 
On Saturday, the 19th, Colonel Mason presented the 
ordinance for establishing a general test. The ordinance for 
appointing a Committee of Safety passed on Thursday, the 
24th, and on Saturday the Convention adjourned. " The 
Tuesday before, George Mason wrote to Martin Cockbum : 

' Journal of the Convention. 


Richmond, Aug. 22, 1775. 

D£AR Sir : 

CoL Blackburn telling me he shall set out for Prince 
William to-day, I take the opportunity of informing you that 
I am now pretty well, though I was exceedingly indisposed for 
several days, some of which I was confined to my bed ; but a 
little fresh air, good water, and excellent kind and hospitable 
treatment from a neighboring country gentleman has recovered 
me. I have found my apprehensions in being sent to this Conven- 
tion but too well verified. Before the choice of delegates for the 
ensuing Congress, I was personally applied to by more than two- 
thirds of the members, insisting upon my serving at the Congress, 
but by assuring them that I could not possibly attend, I prevailed 
on them not to name me, except about twenty who would take 
no excuse. A day or two after, upon Col. Bland's resignation, a 
strong party was formed, at the head of which were Col. Henry, 
Mr. Jefferson and Col. Carrington, for sending me to the Con- 
gress at all events, laying it down as a rule that I would not 
refuse if ordered by my country : in consequence of this just 
before the ballot, I was publicly called upon in Convention and 
obliged to make a public excuse, and give my reasons for refusal, 
in doing which I felt myself more distressed than ever I was in 
my life, especially when I saw tears run down the President's 
cheeks. I took occasion at the same time to recommend Col. 
Francis Lee, who was accordingly chosen in the room of Col. 
Bland. But my getting clear of this appointment has availed me 
little, as I have been since, in spite of everything I could do to the 
contrary, put upon the Committee of Safety ; which is even more 
inconvenient and disagreeable to me than going to the Congress. 
I endeavour'd to excuse myself, and begg'd the Convention would 
permit me to resign ; but was answered by an universal No. 

The 3,000 regular troops (exclusive of the western frontier gar- 
risons) first proposed to be raised are reduced to 1,000, to be 
formed into two regiments, one of eight, the other of seven com- 
panies ; these 15 companies are to be raised in the fifteen western- 
shore districts, the captains and subaltern officers to be appointed 
by the committee of the respective district, formed by a deputa- 
tion of three members from the committee of each county in the 
district. The first regiment is commanded by Col. Henry, Lieut. 


Col. Christian and Maj'r Eppes ; the second regiment by CoL 
Wm. Woodford, Lieut. Col. Charles Scott and Major Spotswood. 
A regiment of minute-men of 680 rank and file in each of the 
fifteen districts on the western shore, with the same field and 
staff officers, chaplain, surgeon, &c., as the regiments of regulars, 
and with the same pay when upon duty in the district, or drawn 
into actual service — the officers to be appointed by the District 
Committees, and commissioned by the Committee of Safety — the 
militia officers are all to give up their present commissions, and 
be nominated by the respective committees' of the counties, the 
militia companys to be exercised once a fortnight, except the 
three winter months, and general county musters twice a year. 
Arms, tents, &c., to be provided for the minute-men at the public 
charge. These are the great outlines of our plan of defence, 
which I think a good, though very expensive one ; the particulars 
would take up too much room for a common letter ; particular 
rules are drawn up for the better regulation and government of 
the army, to which both the minute-men and militia are subjected, 
when drawn out into actual service ; the volunteer companys are 
all discharged and melted down in the plan for the regiments of 
minute-men — these informations you may rely on, as the ordinance 
yesterday received its final fiat. 

There are several ordinances under the consideration of the 
committee of the whole house and nearly completed, viz.: 
one for the raising of money and imposing taxes, one for 
furnishing arms and encouraging the making salt-petre, sulphur, 
powder and lead, one for appointing a Committee of Safety, 
and defining its powers, which are very extensive, one for 
regulating the elections of delegates and county committees, 
and one for establishing a general test. The Maryland Con- 
vention not concurring in the resolve for immediately stop- 
ping the export of provision, it became necessary to rescind 
ours ; that our ports as well as theirs might be kept open till 
the loth of Sept. — A very sensible petition from the merchants 
who are natives of Great Britain has been put into my hands, 
and will be presented to-day or to-morrow, praying that some 
certain line of conduct may be prescribed to them, and a recom- 
mendation to the people from the Convention, respecting 
them. As I drew the ordinance for a general test, I have en- 


deavoured to make it such as no good man would object to : the 
merchants here declare themselves well pleased with it. Pray 
excuse me to Mr. Massey, Mr. McCarty, Mr. Henderson, and all 
enquiring friends, for not writing to them, and tell them I con- 
sider all public news wrote to you as to be communicated to 
them, and such of my constituents as desire information. 

I expect the Convention will arise about the end of this or the 
beginning of next week. The members of the Committee of 
Safety (of which I send you a list) meet next Friday ; how long 
I shall be detained on that business God only knows. My kind 
regard to my dear family, and to the family at " Spring-field." 

Conclude me. Dr. Sir, 

Yr affect. Friend and Servt., 

G. Mason. 

P. S. — Every ordinance goes through all the formalities of a 
bill in the House of Burgesses, has three readings, &c., before it 
is passed, and in every respect wears the face of law — Resolves 
as recommendations being no longer trusted to in matters of 
importance." ' 

The Convention set forth in a declaration of their body 
the cause of their meeting, and the necessity of immediately 
putting the country in a posture of defence. 

'' A causeless, hasty dissolution drove the representative body 
to the unhappy dilemma of either sacrificing the most essential 
interests of their constituents, or of meeting in General Conven- 
tion to assert and preserve them. . . . Repeated proroga- 
tions of our Assembly, when the country was in the greatest 
distress, rendered a Convention in the month of March last 
absolutely necessary. The delegates of the people then met in 
full Convention, the most numerous Assembly that had ever 
been known in this colony, taking a view of our unhappy situa- 
tion . . . judged it then our indispensable duty to put the 
country in a posture of defence. . . . But we again and for 
all, publicly and solemnly declare, before God and the world, 
that we do bear faith and true allegiance to his Majesty George 
III our only lawful and rightful King, that we will so long as may 
be in our power, defend him and his government. ... It is our 

I «« 

Virginia Historical Register," vol. ii., p. 21. 


fixed and unalterable resolution to disband such force as may be 
raised in this colony whenever our dangers are removed &c." ' 

With this manifesto the Convention closed its work, and 
the Committee of Safety took up the reins of government. 
Its powers as defined by the Convention were as follows: 
After meeting at a convenient time and place, electing 
president, vice-president, and clerk, a majority of six or 
more being present, they might grant commissions to any 
officer or officers ; appoint commissioners, paymasters, com- 
missaries, and contractors ; issue their warrants from time to 
time to the treasurer appointed by Convention to any person 
for provisions, clothing, tents, etc. ; superintend, direct, and 
appoint stations, marches, and encampments, for the regular 
forces to be raised ; " and if any company of minute-men or 
militia shall be called out pursuant to the power given the 
chief commanding officer, or other officers, the said Com- 
mittee shall and may judge and determine on the necessity * 
and propriety of making such drafts, and give such orders as 
to discharging or continuing them in service, as to the said 
Committee shall seem most expedient and necessary." The 
Committee, moreover, had power in case of necessity to call 
in assistance from neighboring colonies. All chief com- 
manding officers, as well of regulars as of minute-men and 
militia, were to pay strict obedience to orders received 
from the Committee, and in case of neglect were to be 
reported to the next Convention. The Committee were 
to keep up a correspondence with the committees of the 
several counties and corporations, and all their proceedings 
and transactions were to be fairly entered into a book to be 
laid before the next Convention. They had power also, and 
were desired to collect together all arms lately taken away 
from the public magazine, and all other arms purchased at 
the public expense.' 

The Committee of Safty was to meet on Friday, the 25th 
of August, the day before the adjournment of the Conven- 
tion, and Colonel Mason looked forward to some detention 
in Richmond in transacting its affairs. In September, how- 

' Journal of the Convention. • /W</. 


ever, he was again at '' Gunston Hall/' and receiving a visit 
at this time from Richard Henry Lee, who was on his way 
back to Congress. The latter wrote to Washington from 
Philadelphia two days after his arrival, the 26th, giving him 
news of his " lady " at ** Mount Vernon." " Having some 
business with Colonel Mason," he explains, " I travelled that 
road." " What this business was does not transpire, but it 
doubtless had some connection with political affairs. We 
learn, from the following letter of George Mason to Wash- 
ington, further details of the Convention. It is written less 
guardedly than the letters meant for Colonel Mason's con- 
stituents in Fairfax, and gives us an idea of some of the 
vexations that beset the eager, earnest natures, such as 
• Mason's, in the new and untried paths before them. And 
we see that this early legislative body, untrammelled now 
for the first time, and having sole control of the affairs of the 
colony, with all its patriotism and its elements of greatness, 
was not free from the ordinary weaknesses of popular assem- 
blies. The best minds at length took the lead, and stamped 

their impress on the whole. 

Gunston Hall, Virginia, 
Dear Sir : ^"^""^^ '4, 1775. 

I wrote to you in July, a little before my being ordered to the 
Convention, congratulating you upon an appointment which 
gives so much satisfaction to all America, and afterwards in 
August, from Richmond ; since which I have to acknowledge 
your favor of the twentieth August, which nothing but want of 
health should have prevented my answering sooner, as I shall 
always think myself honored by your correspondence and friend- 
ship. I hinted to you in my last, the parties and factions which 
prevailed at Richmond. I never was in so disagreeable a situa- 
tion, and almost despaired of a cause which I saw so ill con- 
ducted. — Mere vexation and disgust threw me into such an ill 
state of health, that before the Convention rose, I was sometimes 
near fainting in the House. Since my return home, I have had 
a severe fit of sickness, from which I am now recovering, but 
am still very weak and low. 

* "Correspondence of the Revolution." vol. i., p. 51. 


During the first part of the Convention, parties ran so high, 
that we had frequently no other way of preventing improper 
measures, but by procrastination, urging the previous question, 
and giving men time to reflect. However, after some weeks the 
babblers were pretty well silenced, a few weighty members began 
to take the lead, several wholesome regulations were made, and, 
if the Convention had continued to sit for a few days longer, I 
think the public safety would have been as well provided for as 
our present circumstances permit. The Convention, not think- 
ing this a time to rely upon resolves and recommendations only, 
and to give obligatory force to their proceedings, adopted the 
style and form of legislation, changing the word etuut into ordain; 
their ordinances were all introduced in the form of bills, were 
regularly referred to a committee of the whole House, and under- 
went three readings before they were passed. 

I enclose you the ordinance for raising an armed force, for the 
defence and protection of the colony ; it is a little defaced, by 
being handled at our District Committee, but it is the only copy 
I have at present by me. You will find some little inaccuracies 
in it ; but upon the whole, I hope it will merit your approbation. 
The minute plan I think is a wise one, and will, in a short time, 
furnish eight thousand good troops, ready for action, and com- 
posed of men in whose hands the sword may be safely trusted. 
To defray the expense of the provisions made by this ordinance, 
and to pay the charge of the last year's Indian war, we are now 
emitting the sum of three hundred and fifty thousand pounds in 
paper currency. I have great apprehensions, that the large sums 
in bills of credit, now issuing all over the continent, may have 
fatal effects in depreciating the value, and therefore opposed any 
suspension of taxation, and urged the necessity of immediately 
laying such taxes as the people could bear, to sink the sum 
emitted as soon as possible ; but was able only to reduce the 
proposed suspension from three years to one. The land and poll 
tax (the collection of which is to commence in June, 1777), will 
sink fifty thousand pounds per year ; and instead of the usual y^ 

commissions for emitting and receiving, the Treasurer is allowed tj^ 

an annual salary of six hundred and twenty-five pounds. 

Our friend, the Treasurer, was the warmest man in the Conven- 
tion, for immediately raising a standing army of not less than four 


thousand men, upon constant pay. They stood a considerable 
time at three thousand, exclusive of the troops upon the western 
frontiers ; but at the last reading (as you will see by the ordi- 
nance), were reduced to one thousand and twenty, rank and file ; 
in my opinion, a well-judged reduction, not only from our 
inability to furnish, at present, such a number with arms and 
\ ammunition, but I think it extremely imprudent to exhaust our- 
j {selves before we know when we are to be attacked. The part we 
have to act, at present, seems to require our laying in good 
magazines, training our people, and having a good number of 
them ready for action. An ordinance is passed for regulating an 
annual election of members to the Convention and County Com- 
mittees ; for encouraging the making saltpetre, sulphur, and gun- 
powder ; for establishing a manufactory of arms, under the 
direction of commissioners ; and for appointing a Committee of 
Safety, consisting of eleven members, for carrying the ordinances 
of the Convention into execution, directing the stations of the 
troops, and calling the minute-battalions and drafts from the 
militia into service, if necessary, &c. 

There is also an ordinance establishing articles for the govern- 
ment of the troops, principally taken from those drawn up by the 
Congress, except that about martial law upon life and death is 
more cautiously constituted and brought nearer to the principles 
of the common law. 

Many of the principal families are removing from Norfolk, 
Hampton, York, and Williamsburg, occasioned by the behaviour 
of Lord Dunmore, and the commanders of the King's ships and 
tenders upon this station. Whenever your leisure will permit, it 
will always give me the greatest pleasure to be informed of your 
welfare, and to hear what is doing on the great American theatre. 

I most sincerely wish you health and success equal to the justice 
of our cause, and am with great respect, dear Sir, 

Your affectionate and obedient servant, 

George Mason. 

P. S. I beg the favor of you to remember me kindly to General 
Lee, and present him my respectful compliments.' 

* Washington MSB., Department of State. '* Correspondence of the Revolu- 
tion," vol. i., p. 6a. 


George Mason speaks in this letter of the alarm occasioned 
at this time by Lord Dunmore in Lower Virginia. It was 
expected that he would next appear in the Rappahannock 
and Potomac rivers, and Colonel Mason, in view of this 
contingency, moved his family away for safety, and recom- 
mended to Mrs. Washington, who was then at "Mount 
Vernon," that she should leave the neighborhood also. 
George Mason wrote to General Washington a little later : 

'' Dunmore has come and gone, and left us untouched except 
by some alarm. I sent my family many miles back in the coun- 
try, and advised Mrs. Washington to do likewise as a prudential 
movement. At first she said ' No ; I will not desert my post ' ; 
but she finally did so with reluctance, rode only a few miles, and, 
plucky little woman as she is, stayed away only one night." ' 

Dunmore burned Norfolk in January, and during the sum- 
mer of 1776 his vessels came up the Potomac as far as 
Occoquan Falls, in Prince William County, intending, it was 
said, to lay waste " Gunston Hall " and " Mount Vernon " in 
the absence of their owners. Lord Dunmore designed to 
capture Mrs. Washington, it was asserted, had she been at 
home." The county militia, however, mustered in strong 
force, and, a heavy storm coming to their aid, his lordship 
was forced to turn back. Mr. William Brent's house was 
destroyed by the enemy at this time. His home w^ near 
Aquia Creek, and is one of the gentlemen's plantations 
mentioned in " Smythe's Travels." 

On the 1st of December, 1775, the Virginia Convention 
met again in Richmond, and adjourned later to Williams- 
burg. George Mason did not attend this Convention, as he 
was suffering from an attack of the gout. And at his own 
request his name was dropped from the Committee of Safety. 
But anxious to do what he could for the cause, he labored, 
at the instance of the Committee, in preparing for the defence 

* " Mary and Martha Washington" (J. B. Lossing), p. 137 (extract from an 
old newspaper). 
• Ibid,, p. 156 ; •• Mount Vernon and its Associations." — Lossing. 


of the Potomac River. The following letter on the subject 
was written to the Maryland Council of Safety : 

Virginia, Fairfax County, 
Sir : J»»- 31st, 1776. 

Being empowered and directed by the Committee of Safety for 
this Colony to build two row-gallies^ one to carry a 24 and the 
other an 18 pounder, and provide three armed cutters for the 
protection of Potomac River, we think it proper to inform your 
Board that this measure will be carried into execution, with all 
possible expedition, and that we hope to have your co-operation 
in adopting some similar plan for the same purpose. We beg the 
favor of an answer by the first opportunity, and we are, with the 
greatest respect. Sir, Yr most obt. Hble. Serts., 

G. Mason, 

To the Honble. the President ) J^"^ Dalton. 

of the Council of Safety for the 
Province of Maryland.* 


The following letter from Colonel Mason to Robert Carter, 
of " Nomini," relates to the affairs of the Ohio Company, 
and the survey recently made of their lands, for the ex- 
penses of which George Mason had made himself responsible : 

GuNSTON Hall, March 12th, 1776. 


Capt. Hancock Lee and one Mr. Leet are returned from sur- 
veying the Ohio Company's 200,000 acres of land, and arc now 
here making out their returns and settling their accounts, in 
assisting about which I am closely engaged, as I wish to have 
everything as clear and regular as possible. They have got it all 
in one tract, upon a large creek called Licking Creek, which falls 
into the Ohio river on the southeast side, about 150 miles below 
the Scioto river, and about 60 miles above the mouth of the 
Kentucky river, so that it is clear both of Henderson's and the 
Vandalia Company's claim. By all accounts it is equal to any 
land on this continent, being exceedingly rich and level. The 
charges of the survey come to about £6^0 currency, and I have 

' MS. Letter (published in 4, "American Archives," iv., 896). 


never received a farthing from the members towards it, except 
jQA9 . . 9 . . 9 ^rom Richard Lee, Esq : and ^loo sterling from 
Col. Tayloe (for Mr. Lomax and himself), which with my own 
quota of ^50 sterling makes ^199 . . 9 . . 9 sterling. It would 
be unreasonable that I should advance the remainder, even if I 
had the money, but the fact is I have it not, and the men are all 
waiting for their wages, by which I am extremely distressed, hav- 
ing always through life made it a rule to comply punctually with 
my contracts. On this occasion, upon the credit of the Ohio 
* Company, and the particular promises of several of the members 
to advance ^50 sterling each, I agreed to make myself liable 
for the charges of this survey, and am now liable to suffer for it 

I ask no pecuniary favor of any man, and desire only justice. 
I must acknowledge that you were not one of the number who 
promised to make the said advance, and that you told me, when 
I last conversed with you on the subject, you believed you should 
not make any further advances as a member of the Ohio Com- 
pany, and would rather lose what you had already paid than run 
any further risk, and it is therefore that I now put it to you as a 
man of honor, or, what is more intelligible and important, as an 
honest man, whether you intend to claim any benefit from the 
survey lately made or not ? If you do surely you ought to 
indemnify me from all but my proportional charge. If you do 
not, you should let us know it candidly, that your shares may 
be disposed of for the payment, or sunk in the Company ; 
or if you do not like to be further concerned, and will sell out to 
me, I will purchase one, or perhaps both your shares. In case 
you intend to claim your part of this survey, I am convinced you 
will immediately furnish me with your proportion of the money ; 
and at any rate I flatter myself you will pardon the freedom with 
which I have expressed myself on the subject, and ascribe it to 
its true cause, the sincerity, and real regard, with which I am, Sir, 

Your most humble servant, 

G. Mason. 

To the Honorable Robert Carter, Esq : 

Westmoreland County. 
To the care of ) 

Richard Lee, Esq.* ) 

* MS. Letter. 


General Washington, in the spring of 1776, was successful 
over the British at Boston in forcing them to evacuate the 
city ; this being the first of what by general consent have 
been considered the three most brilliant events in his mili» 
tary life. He received the congratulations of his friend, 
Colonel Mason, in a letter from " Gunston Hall," written the 
2d of April. George Mason here gives also some account of 
his own duties as agent of the Committee of Safety. He 
had turned from law-making and finance to ship-building, 
with the versatility of a vigorous mind, bringing all his 
accustomed energy of purpose to the task before him. 
Though in weak health, as he tells his correspondent, this 
letter shows no trace of the lassitude of which he makes 
mention, but puts the writer before us alive to the issues of 
the hour and responsive to its demands. 

Virginia, CJunston Hall, 

April 2, 1776. 

Dear Sir : 

We have just received the welcome news of your having, with 
so much address and success, dislodged the Ministerial Troops 
and taken possession of the town of Boston. I congratulate you 
most heartily upon this glorious and important event— an event 
which will render General Washington's name immortal in the 
annals of America, endear his memory to the latest posterity, and 
entitle him to those thanks which Heaven appointed as the reward 
of public virtue. 

It is the common opinion here that we shall have a visit from 
General Howe in some of the middle or southern colonies, but it 
does not seem well-founded. I am very unable to judge of mili- 
tary affairs ; but it appears to me that if General Howe acts the 
part of a wise man and an experienced officer, he will not venture 
a sickly, worn-put, disgusted, and disgraced army, in a country 
where he must meet immediate opposition, and where any mis- 
fortune might produce a mutiny or general desertion. I think 
it much more probable that he will retire to Halifax, give his 
troops a little time, by ease and refreshment, to recover their 
spirits, and be in readiness as soon as the season permits, to 


relieve Quebec ; keeping some ships-of-war cruising off Boston 
harbour to protect and direct the transports which may arrive. 
New York, or any of the northern United Provinces are too 
near Cambridge ; for if he could not maintain the advantageous 
and strongly fortified post of Boston, what reasonable nope 
has he of gaining and maintaining a new one, in the face of a 
superior army ? 

You will, perhaps, smile at these speculative and idle sugges- 
tions upon a subject which will probably be reduced to a 
certainty, one way or other, long before this reaches you ; but 
when I am conversing with you, the many agreeable hours we 
have spent together recur upon my mind. I fancy myself under 
your hospitable roof at Mount Vernon, and lay aside reserve. 
May God grant us a return of those halcyon days, when every 
man may sit down at his ease under the shade of his own vine 
and his own fig-tree, and enjoy the sweets of domestic life ! Or, 
if this is too much, may He be pleased to inspire us with spirit 
and resolution to bear our present and future sufferings becoming 
men determined to transmit to our posterity, unimpaired, the 
blessings we have received from our ancestors. 

Colonel Caswell's victory in North Carolina, and the military 
spirit which it has raised, will be an obstacle to any attempts in 
that quarter. Maryland and Virginia are at present rather 
unprepared, but their strength is daily increasing. The late 
levies have been made with surprising rapidity, and the seven 
new regiments are already in a manner complete except as to 
arms, in which they are very deficient ; but arms are coming in^ 
in small quantities, from different parts of the country, and a 
very considerable manufactory is established at Fredericksburg. 
Large ventures have been lately made for military stores ; for 
which purpose we are now loading a ship for Europe, with 
tobacco at Alexandria. Her cargo is all on float, and I hope to 
have her under sailing in a few days. Notwithstanding the 
natural plenty of provisions in this colony, I am very apprehen- 
sive of a great scarcity of beef and pork among our troops this 
summer, occasioned by the people's not expecting a market until 
the slaughter season was past : I find it extremely difficult to 
lay in a stock for about three hundred men, in the Marine 
department of this river. 


Ill health, and a certain listlessness inseparable from it, have 
prevented my writing to you so often as I would otherwise have 
done ; but I trust to your friendship to excuse it. The same 
cause disabled me from attending the Committee of Safety this 
winter, and induced me to intreat the Committee to leave me out 
of it. I continue to correspond constantly with the Board, and I 
hope am no less usefully employed, thinking it, in such times as 
these are, every man's duty to contribute his mite to the public 
service. I have, in conjunction with Mr. Dalton, the charge of 
providing and equipping armed vessels for the protection of this 
river. The thing is new to me, but I must endeavor to improve 
by experience. I am much obliged to the Board for joining Mr. 
Dalton with me. He is a steady, diligent man, and without such 
assistance I could not have undertaken it. We are building the 
row-galleys, which are in considerable forwardness ; and have 
purchased three sloops for cruisers, two of them being only from 
forty to fifty tons burden, are to mount eight carriage-guns each, 
three and four pounders ; they are not yet fitted up, and we are 
exceedingly puzzled to get cannon for them. The other, the 
American Congress is a fine stout vessel, of about one hundred 
and ten tons burden, and has such an easy draft of water as will 
enable her to run into most of the creeks, or small harbors, if she 
meets with a vessel of superior force. She mounts fourteen 
carriage-guns, six and four-pounders, though we have thoughts 
of mounting two nine-pounders upon her main beam, if we find 
her able, as we think she is, to bear them ; her guns are mounted 
and to be tried to-morrow. We have twenty barrels of powder, 
and about a ton of shot ready — more is making ; swivels we have 
not yet been able to procure, but she may make a tolerable shift 
without, until they can be furnished. We have got some small- 
arms, and are taking every method to increase them, and hope to 
be fully supplied in about a week more. Her company of marines 
is raised and have been for some time exercised to the use of the 
great guns. Her complement of marines and seamen is to be 
ninety-six men. We are exerting ourselves to the utmost and 
hope to have her on her station in less than a fortnight, and that 
the other vessels will quickly follow her, and be able to protect 
the inhabitants of this river from the piratical attempts of all the 
enemy's cutters, tenders, and small craft. 


Immediately upon receipt of your former letters, I applied to 
some of the Maryland Committees, as well as those on this side ; 
in consequence of which, the several most convenient places on 
this river were sounded, and thoroughly examined ; but effectual 
batteries were found, in our present circumstances, impracticable. 
Mr. Lund Washington tells me he sent you the drafts and sound- 
ings taken upon this occasion. A regiment commanded by 
Colonel Mercer of Fredericksburg, is stationed on this part of 
the river, and I hope we shall be tolerably safe, unless a push 
is made here with a large body of men. I think we have some 
reason to hope the ministry will bungle away another summer, 
relying partly upon force, and partly upon fraud and negotiation. 

The family here join with me in presenting their best compli- 
ments to yourself and lady, as well as to Mr. Custis and his. If 
in any of your affairs here I can render you any acceptable ser- 
vice, I beg you will use that freedom with which I wish you to 
command dear sir, 

Your affectionate and obedient servant, 

George Mason. 

To His Excellency General Washington, ) 
Head-Quarters at Boston.' ) 

It is interesting to note, as an instance of George Mason's 
sagacity, that the " speculations," at which he supposed his 
military friend would smile, proved, in one point, to be per- 
fectly correct. General Howe did not go to New York, as 
Washington himself expected he would, but to Halifax, as 
Mason predicted. In the above letter, Colonel Mason speaks 
of corresponding constantly with the Committee of Safety* 
Unfortunately, the letter-book of the Committee has been 
lost, and none of George Mason's letters are to be found. 
In the journal of the Committee for February loth there is 
this entry : " A letter wrote to Col. George Mason in answer 
to his of the third."* 

* 4, "American Archives," v., 760. "Correspondence of the Revolution/ 
vol. i., p. 178. Washington MSS., Department of State. 

* MS. Journal, State Library, Richmond. 


Washington wrote to George Mason, early in May, giving 
him a commission to attend to in behalf oi young Mr. Cus- 
tis, his adopted son, who had now attained his majority. He 
had been married nearly two years, but his property was 
still in Washington's care. His sister died, as has been said, 
in 1773. General Washington had been appointed the guar- 
dian of his wife's children. 

New York, loth May, 1776. 
Dear Sir : 

The uncertainty of my return, and the justice of surrendering 
to Mr. Cvstis the bonds, which I have taken for the moneys 
raised from his estate and lent out upon interest, as also his 
moiety of his deceased sister's fortune, consisting altogether of 
bonds, oblige me to have recourse to a friend to see this matter 
done, and a proper memorandum of the transaction made. I 
could think of no one, in whose friendship, care, and abilities I 
could so much confide, to do Mr. Custis and me this favor, as 
yourself ; and therefore, I take the liberty of soliciting your aid. 

In order that you may be enabled to do this with ease and 
propriety, I have written to the clerk of the Secretary's office for 
attested copies of my last settled accounts with the General 
Court in behalf of Mr. Custis, and the estate of his deceased 
sister ; with which and the bonds, I have desired him and Mr. 
Washington to wait upon you for the purpose above mentioned. 
The amount of the balance due, upon my last settled accounts, 
to Mr. Custis, I would also have assigned him out of my moiety 
of his sister's bonds ; and, if there is no weight in what I have 
said in my letter to Mr. Lund Washington, concerning the 
rise of exchange, and which, to avoid repetition, as I am a good 
deal hurried, I have desired him to show you, I wish it may meet 
with no notice, as I want nothing but what is consistent with the 
strictest justice, honor, and even generosity ; although I have 
never charged him or his sister, from the day of my connection 
with them to this hour, one farthing for all the trouble I have 
had in managing their estates, nor for any expense they have 
been to me, notwithstanding some hundreds of pounds would not 
reimburse the moneys I have actually paid in attending the pub- 
lic meetings in Williamsburg to collect their debts, and transact 


the several matters appertaining to the respective estates. A 

variety of occurrences, and my anxiety to put this place as 

speedily as possible into a posture of defence, will not, at this 

time, admit of my adding more, than that I am, with unfeigned 


Dear Sir, &c.* 

General Washington also wrote on the same day to Lund 
Washington, at " Mount Vernon," telling him to take the ac- 
counts, and, "with these and the bundle of bonds, which 
you will find among my papers, I would have Mr. Custis 
and you repair to Colonel Mason and get him, as a common 
friend to us both, as a gentleman well acquainted with busi- 
ness, and very capable of drawing up a proper memorandum 
of the transaction, to deliver him his own bonds, &c.," and 
he concludes the letter thus : " The many matters which 
hang heavy upon my hands at present, do not allow me to 
add more, but oblige me to request as I have not written 
fully to Colonel Mason on this subject, that you will show 
him this letter, and if necessary let him have it." 

A few notices of George Mason are to be found in the 
journal of the Committee of Safety for May and June: 

"May 29, 1776, a warrant to George Mason, Esq: ;i^3-io-o 
for a musquet to 3rd regiment. June 10, George Mason and 
John Dalton, Esqrs. are requested to view a blanket made at a 
manufactory lately set up in Pennsylvania, and if they approve 
thereof, that they contract for the purchase of 3000 upon the 
best terms they can, to be delivered agreeable to such sample. 
June II, Resolved that George Mason, Esq: be authorized to 
draw on the commissary of provisions here for rations to such 
seamen as may come to this city engaged for the Potomac River 
department. June 18, A warrant to George Mason, Esq : pr. 
use George Mason, Jr. ^3-5 for two guns to a detachment of his 
minute company marched to Hampton."' 

' •* Writings of Washington," Sparks, vol. iii., p. 383. 
* MS. Journal, State Library, Richmond. 


The great Convention of 1776, the fifth and last of the 
Virginia colonial Conventions, was to meet on the 6th of 
May, and there seems to have been no small competition 
for seats in its councils. Robert Brent wrote to Richard 
Henry Lee from Aquia on the 28th of April : " In many 
counties there have been warm contests for seats in our 
approaching Convention. Many new ones are got in . . . 
Colonel Mason, with great difficulty returned for Fairfax. 
Our friend Harry much pushed in Prince William. . . . 
Will Brent for Stafford in room of Charles Carter." * As 
George Mason had not been in the Convention during the 
winter or on the Committee of Safety it may have been 
assumed by the friends of other candidates that his ill-health 
and known fondness for retirement would prevent him from 
serving again. But he was now too well known to fail of 
being brought forward by his many admirers, and he was 
ready to meet their wishes. " Our friend Harry " of the 
Brent letter was Colonel Henry Lee of " Leesylvania," the 
father of the young cavalry officer of twenty-two who was 
soon afterwards to render the name famous. The Conven- 
tion met on the appointed day at Williamsburg, but Colonel 
Mason did not arrive until the 17th. Edmund Pendleton was 
elected president of the Convention, and in his address to the 
members soon after he laid before them the unsettled condi- 
tion of the colony, with almost all the powers of government 
suspended for nearly two years, and he recapitulated the 
needs of the people. On the following Friday it was resolved 
by the Convention to raise thirteen hundred men for the 
military establishment, and the Committee of Safety was 
empowered to issue commissions for the several officers 
required. The Convention, on Wednesday, the i Sth, resolved 
itself into a committee on the state of the colony, and Colonel 
Archibald Cary reported the famous Resolutions for propos- 
ing Independence. These were written by Edmund Pendle- 
ton. " Henry and Nelson concerted that the former should 
speak in favor of a movement for independence, and the 

' Lee Papers, Southern Literary Messenger^ new series, vol. vi., No. 3. 


latter support him," Edmund Randolph tells us. " This he 
did," adds our historian, "and Henry stood like a * pillar of 
fire * before the Convention." * Meriwether Smith as well as 
Edmund Pendleton offered resolutions, but those of the lat- 
ter were accepted. After a preamble setting forth their 
grievances, these state : 

" Resolved unanimously^ That the delegates appointed to rep- 
resent this colony in General Congress be instructed to propose 
to that respectable body to declare the United Colonies free and 
independent States, absolved from all allegiance to or dependence 
upon the crown or parliament of Great Britain, and that they 
give the assent of this colony to such declaration, and to what- 
ever measures may be thought proper and necessary by the Con- 
gress for forming foreign alliances and a confederation of the 
colonies at such a time and in the manner as to them shall seem 
best : 

'' Provided that the power of forming government for and the 
regulations of the internal concerns of each colony be left to the 
respective colonial legislatures. 

" Resolved unanimously^ That a committee be appointed to pre- 
pare a Declaration of Right, and such a plan of government 
as will be most likely to maintain peace and order in this colony 
and secure substantial and equal liberty to the people." ' 

Thus the Virginia Convention took the first step which led 
to the Declaration of Independence on the part of the united 
colonies. The resolutions have been admired for their con- 
densation, clearness, and vigor, but the preamble was not 
considered equal to them in style. Great was the rejoicing 
in Williamsburg over this action of the Convention. There 
was a military parade in celebration of the event, and the 
resolutions were read aloud to the troops, in the presence of 
the members of the Committee of Safety, and the delegates 
to the Convention, when patriotic toasts were given and the 
" Continental Union flag " displayed. And at night the town 
was illuminated.' 

' MS. History of Virginia. * Journal of the Convention. 

' Moore's " Diary of the Revolution," vol. i., p. 340. 




Before the meeting of the Convention the different mem- 
bers had personally or by correspondence discussed the 
burning question of independence, and the important meas- 
ure which it involved of forming a new government for 
Virginia. John Page of " Rosewell," Jefferson's intimate 
friend, wrote to Richard Henry Lee on the I2th of April: 
"I think almost every man except the treasurer [Robert 
Carter Nicholas] is willing to declare for Independency. 
I would to God you could be here at the next Convention. 
. . . If you could I make no doubt you might easily 
prevail on the Convention to declare for Independency, and 
to establish a form of government." * And that the members 
were already preparing forms of government to be proposed 
to the Convention we may readily take for granted. In Con- 
gress Richard Henry Lee had talked on the subject with 
John Adams and others, and it may have been Adams' 
" Thoughts on Government " which is referred to in the 
following letter of John Augustine Washington written to 
Lee April iSth, in which he says: 

\ " That we can no longer do without some fixed form of gov- 
ernment is certain. That we have done as well as we have under 
our present no-form is astonishing, and really not to be accounted 
for but by Providence. I am happy in hearing from you, that we 
may expect a well digested form of government to be sent to our 
next Convention ; for true it is that our Convention stands in 
need of advice, at least in matters of such great importance, and 
I really fear that this will want more than the last." ' 

On the loth of May, John Adams introduced in Congress 
the resolution recommending to the colonies, where they 
were left without governments sufficient for their needs, to 
adopt such as they deemed expedient. This resolution 
passed, and Adams, with Richard Henry Lee and Edward 
Rutledge, were appointed a committee to prepare a pre- 
amble, which was adopted on the 15th of May, the same 
day that Virginia sent forth her resolutions advocating inde- 

' Lee Papers, Southern Literary Messenger ^ new series, vol. vi., No. 4. 
• IHd, 


pendence. This preamble denied the royal authority, and 
looked to the people as the source of the new governments. 
On Saturday, the i8th of May, there were three letters 
written to Richard Henry Lee by members of the Conven- 
tion — Thomas Ludwcll Lcc, John Augustine Washington, 
and George Mason, all urging him to join them if possible. 
Thomas Ludwell Lee sent his brother the Resolutions of the 
15th. He says: 

" Enclosed you have some printed resolves which passed our 
Convention to the infinite joy of the people here. The preamble 
is not to be admired in point of composition, nor has the resolve 
of Independency that pre-emptory, decided air which I could 
wish. . . . You have also a set of resolves offered by Col. 
Meriwether Smith, but the first which were proposed the second 
day by the President — for the debate lasted two days — were pre- 
ferred. These he had formed from the resolves and preambles 
of the first day badly put together. Col. Mason came to town 
yesterday after the arrival of the post ; I showed him your letter, 
and he thinks with me that your presence here is of the last con- 
sequence. He designs, I believe, to tell you so by letter to-day. 
. . . To form a plan of just and equal government would not 
perhaps be so very difficult ; but to preserve it from being marred 
with a thousand impertinences ; from being in the end a jumble 
of discordant, unintelligible parts, will demand the protecting 
hand of a master.'* 

John Augustine Washington wrote on the same all- 
absorbing subject : 

" I have the pleasure to enclose you a resolve of our Conven- 
tion upon the subject of taking up Government, and an instruction 
to our delegates in Congress to declare the United Colonies free 
and independent States. It is not so full as some would have 
wished it, but I hope may answer the purpose. What gave me 
pleasure was that the resolve was made by a very full house and 
without a dissenting voice. ... I hope the great business of 
forming a well regulated government will go on well, as I think 
there will be no great difference among our best speakers, Henry, 
Mason, Mercer, Dandridge, Smith, and I am apt to think the 

' IHd,, No. 5, p. 325. 


President will concur with them in sentiment. The Resolve with 
regard to Government, &c., was entirely his."' 

Thus was. the work ^ of independence forwarded by the 
" bolder spirits of Henry, the Lees, Pages, Mason, &c.," of 
whom Jefferson speaks in his memoirs, with whom he went 
" at all points." But the men of the moderate party, in the 
person of Edmund Pendleton, were not behindhand on this 
occasion, and, now united and unanimous, Virginia initiated 
the new era in American history. 

The following is George Mason's letter to Richard Henry 
Lee : 

Williamsburg, May i8, 1776. 
Dear Sir : 

' After a smart fit of the gout, which detained me at home the 
first of the session, I have at last reached this place, where, to my 
great satisfaction, I find the first grand point has been carried 
nem, can,, the opponents being so few that they did not think fit to 
divide or contradict the general voice. Your brother. Col. T., 
will enclose you the resolve. The preamble is tedious, rather 
timid, and in many instances exceptionable, but I hope it may 
answer the purpose. We are now going upon the most important 
of all subjects — government ! The committee appointed to pre- 
pare a plan is, according to custom, overcharged with useless 
members. You know our Convention. I need not say that it is 
not mended by the late elections. We shall, in all probability^ 
have a thousand ridiculous and impracticable proposals, and of 
course a plan formed of hetrogeneous, jarring, and unintelligible 
ingredients. This can be prevented only by a few men of integ- 
rity and abilities, whose country's interest lies next their hearts, 
undertaking this business and defending it ably through every 
stage of opposition. 

I need not tell you how much you will be wanted here on this 
occasion. I speak with the sincerity of a friend, when I assure 
you that, in my opinion, your presence cannot, must not be 
dispensed with. We cannot do without you. Mr. Nelson is now 
on his way to Philadelphia, and will supply your place in Con- 
gress, by keeping up the representation of this colony. It will be 
some time, I presume, before that assembly can be fully pos- 

> /W</., p. 330. 



sessed of the sentiments and instructions of the different provinces, 
which I hope will afford you time to return. 

Pray confer with some of your ablest friends at Congress upon 
the subject of foreign alliances ; what terms it will be expedient 
to offer. Nations, like individuals, are governed by their interest. | 7 
Great Britain will bid against us. Whatever European power 
takes us by the hand must risk a war with her. We want but two . 
things — a regular supply of military stores, and a naval protection 
of our trade and coasts. For the first we are able and willing to 
pay the value, in the produce of our country. For the second we 
must offer something adequate. To offer what is not worth 
accepting will be trifling with ourselves. Our exports should not 
be bound or affected by treaty ; our right to these should be ^ 
sacredly retained. In our imports perhaps we may make conces- 
sions, so far as to give a preference to the manufactures or produce 
of a particular country. This would indeed have the effect of 
every other monopoly. We should be furnished with goods of 
worse quality, and at a higher price than in an open market, but 
this would only force us earlier into manufactures. It is an im- 
portant and delicate subject, and requires thorough consideration. 
I know you will excuse my loose thoughts, which I give you in a 
hurry, without order but without reserve. I have not time to 
copy or correct, having only borrowed half an hour, before I 
attend the House, which is now meeting. At all events, my dear 
Sir, let us see you here as soon as possible. All your friends 
anxiously expect you, and none more than 

Your affectionate friend and servant, 

G. Mason. 

P. S. You who know what business is now before Congress, 
and in what forwardness, as well as how your colleagues stand 
affected as to capital points, will be best able to judge whether, 
at this crisis, you can do most service there or here, and I am sure 
you will act accordingly. 

To Richard Henry Lee, Esquire, of the 

honorable the Continental Congress, 
Philadelphia. Per post on public service.* 

I MS. Letter. Grigsby quotes from this letter in *' History of the CoiiTeii- 
tion of 1776'* (note to p. z6i). Archives of the Virginia Historical Society. 




Geoi^e Mason, detained by sickness from attending the 
Convention at an earlier day, arrived at Williamsburg on the 
17th of May, as has been seen, and took his seat in the Con- 
vention on the following morning. The committee to pre- 
pare a Declaration of Rights and Constitution, as first named 
on the 15th of May, consisted of twenty-eight members, 
among whom were Meriwether Smith, James Mercer, Robert 
Carter Nicholas, Patrick Henry, Richard Bland, Thomas 
Ludwell Lee, Dudley Digges, John Blair, John Page, and Ed- 
mund Randolph. Madison was added to the committee on 
the i6th and Geoi^e Mason on the i8th, each one on the 
day that he took his seat in the Convention. Colonel Mason 
was placed on four other committees on the i8th ; that of 
Propositions and Grievances ; that of Privileges and Elec- 
tions ; the committee appointed to prepare and bring in an 
ordinance to encourage woollen, linen, and other manufac- 
tories ; and the one appointed to prepare and bring in an 
ordinance to encourage the making of salt, saltpetre, and 
gunpowder. A letter was received from the Virginia dele- 
gates in Congress calling the attention of the Convention to 
a difficulty which had arisen between some gentlemen who 
had taken up lands on the Ohio near Pittsburg and the 
Indians of the vicinity. Of the committee of eighteen 
appointed to examine into the affair, Patrick Henry, James 
Mercer, and George Mason were members. On Monday, the 


27th of May, Colonel Gary, the chairman of the committee 
to prepare a constitution, reported that " the committee had 
accordingly prepared a Declaration of Rights, which he 
read in his place." It was read a second time at the clerk's 
table, and ordered to be referred to a committee of the 
whole Convention. The following Wednesday was appointed 
as the day when the Convention should take it into considera- 
tion, and in the meantime it was to be printed for the perusal 
of the members. It came before the Convention, then went 
back to the committee, and was again under discussion by 
the former on the 3d, 4th, and 5th of June. On the loth 
several amendments were made to it by the Convention, and 
on the 1 2th it passed the Convention on a third reading 
nent. con,^ This paper, it is well known, was drafted by 
George Mason. 

The same day that this important instrument received the 
assent of the Convention, provision was made for supplying 
the treasury of the colony, which had now to do its part in 
the war for establishing the people in the enjoyment of the 
rights just promulgated. The following resolutions passed 
the Convention on the 12th of June: 

*' Resolved^ That the sum of one hundred thousand pounds, for 
the purpose of supplying the regular forces and militia to be em- 
ployed on the frontiers, and others which may remain on the pay 
of the colony, for building vessels, and pay and provisions for 
the seamen and marines in the navy, and all other public claims, 
ought to be raised by an additional tax of one shilling and three 
pence on tithables and of one shilling per hundred acres on land, 
payable in the year 1777, and each of the six following years. 
Resolved^ That Treasury notes to the amount of the said sum of 
100,000/ ought to be issued upon the credit of the said taxes, 
redeemable on the first day of January, 1784, and that 70,000/ 
of such notes be issued in dollars, or parts of dollars/* 

Archibald Cary, Robert Carter Nicholas, George Mason, 
and nine other gentlemen were appointed a committee to pre- 
pare and bring in an ordinance pursuant to these resolutions.' 

* Journal of the Convention. . . . ' ' Ibid, 


On the 20th of June the Convention appointed delegates to 
Congress for the coming year, which was in effect renewing 
the appointment of five of those already in office — Wythe, 
Nelson, Jefferson, and the two Lees. Two days afterwards, 
Mr. Digges from the Committee of Safety informed the 
Convention of their decision as to the disposition of the 
prisoners lately taken by Captains James and Richard 
Barron, being two hundred and seventeen Scotch Highland 
regulars. The non-commissioned officers and cadets they 
thought should be sent to some secure place on the fron- 
tiers, and there kept as prisoners of war ; the seamen should 
be engaged to serve in a cruiser or galley, if willing, and it 
would be prudent, they considered, to dispose the privates 
over the middle counties, one in a family, as prisoners of war 
yet employed on wages. On the 24th of June, Colonel 
Cary reported a plan of government for this colony, which 
was read the first time. The same day, the following im- 
portant resolutions passed the Assembly, in reference to 
the claim of Richard Henderson, George Morgan, and others. 

" Whereas divers petitions from the inhabitants of the Western 
Frontiers have been presented to this Convention, complaining 
of exhorbitant demands on them for lands claimed by persons 
pretending to derive titles from Indian deeds and purchases. Re- 
solved^ that all persons actually settled on any of the said lands 
ought to hold the same without paying any pecuniary or other 
consideration whatever to any private person or persons, until 
the said petitions, as well as the validity of the title under such 
Indian deeds or purchases shall have been considered and deter- 
mined on by the Legislatures of this country ; and that all 
persons who are now actually settled on any unlocated or unap- 
propriated lands in Virginia, to which there is no other just 
claim, shall have the pre-emption or preference in the grants of 
such lands. Resolved^ that no purchases of lands within the 
chartered limits of Virginia shall be made under any pretence 
whatever, from any Indian tribe or nation without the approba- 
tion of the Legislature/* 

On the 4th of July commissioners were appointed, by 
a resolution of the Convention to collect and take the evi- 


dence on behalf of the government of Virginia against the 
several persons pretending to claim lands under deeds and 
purchases from the Indians.' Edmund Randolph says of 
this action of the Convention : 

" On the petition of one Richard Henderson and his associates, 
a great question in the law of nations as applied to America was 
agitated and decided by the Convention ; whether a purchase by 
individuals, of lands, to which the Indians claimed title by their 
manner of occupancy was binding upon Virginia, within whose 
limits they lay. She in terms annulled every such purchase, not 
confirmed by the government, existing at the time." * 

On the 26th the plan of government was read a second 
time and debated upon in the Convention. It was 
taken up again on the two following days, and several 
amendments were made and agreed to on the 28th. 
On the 29th it was read the third time, and passed 
by a unanimous resolve. This plan of government or 
Constitution, in its original draft — like the Bill of Rights of 
which it formed the sequel — was from the pen of George 
Mason. On this day also the governor was appointed 
by ballot, Patrick Henry receiving the largest number of 
votes. A committee was appointed to wait upon the new 
governor and notify him of his election, and George Mason 
was made its chairman. He was also named first on a com- 
mittee to prescribe the oaths of office to be taken by the 
governor and privy council. Colonel Mason on the 1st of 
July informed the Convention that the governor had been 
notified of his appointment, and returned an answer which 
he presented. A committee was appointed to devise a 
proper seal for the commonwealth. It was composed of 
four members : Richard Henry Lee, George Mason, Robert 
Carter Nicholas, and George Wythe. On the 5th of July, 
the last day of the Convention, Colonel Mason reported this 
seal, and George Wythe and John Page were desired to 
superintend the execution of it.' 

» Ibid. • MS. History of Virginia. » Journml of the Convention. 


The only letter of George Mason's that is to be found, 
written at this time, is one to his friend Martin Cockburn, 
dated the 23d of June, the day before the plan of government 
was reported to the Convention. There is nothing in it con- 
cerning the important work on which he had been engaged. 
Doubtless the letter to Mr. Massey, of which Colonel Mason 
speaks, contained particulars as to his recent labors. The 
" Gutridges ** (Goodrichs), to whom George Mason makes 
reference, are thus described by Edmund Randolph : 

'' Virginia committed but few errors in the selection of men to 
whom she committed her interests. But she was not equally for- 
tunate in the repudiation of a father and his three sons, of the 
name of Goodrich. They were so original and happy in their 
genius of ship-building that from the construction of vessels 
adapted to all the waters of this colony, many cargoes escaped 
capture and relieved the most urgent wants of the navy and the 
people. But upon a doubt, whether upon some occasion they 
had acted correctly, they were suspected of being unfaithful to 
the country and forced into the condition of enemies. Their 
hostility was not to be appeased. Their faculties were so applied 
as to enable them to intercept every vessel which they could 
discover in the shallowest water and most intricate navigation. 
It was said that the whole British navy had scarcely made prizes 
of Virginia ownership to an equal amount with theirs. Fertile as 
revolutions generally are in characters equal to every growing 
necessity, Virginia never repaired the loss which she sustained in 
these men. They had explored every vulnerable point and weak- 
ness in Virginia, and their hatred kept pace with their knowl- 
edge." " 

Lord Dunmore, who had left Hampton Roads the first of 
June, was entrenched, at this time, with five hundred men, on 
Gwynn's Island, in the Chesapeake Bay, opposite Matthews 

WiLUAMSBURG, June 23d, 1776. 

Dear Sir : 

I received your obliging favor yesterday per post, which, not 
having time to answer then, I take the opportunity of doing 
to-day per Captain Westcot. The business you mention shall be 

' MS. History of Virginia. 


attended to so far as Richard Lee, Esq: can inform me ; for 
neither of the Mr. Steptoe's have been here. Having just wrote 
a long letter to our friend, Mr. Massey, I must beg leave to refer 
you to him for what we are doing in Convention. Public news 
we have none, more than you '11 see in the papers, except that 
one of that infernal crew, the Gutridge's has just taken a French 
West India-Man, coming to trade with us, and carried her up to 
Dunmore's fleet at Guinnis [x/V] Island ; and Friday arrived 
here from James River, taken by Captain Barron, two hundred 
and seventeen Highland soldiers (very likely fellows) of the 42nd. 
and 71st. Regiments. I only mention this because from Purdie's 
account one might be puzzled to know whether they were soldiers 
or emigrants. The cadets, which are only two, will have their 
parolle, and the common soldiers will be distributed in the 
middle counties, and permitted to contract for wages with such 
as will employ them. The Convention have determined to 
adjourn next Saturday, but I hardly think they will be able 
to do it so soon. I am rejoiced to hear of my dear children's 
health, as well as of your family's, to all whom please to remem- 
ber me kindly. Tell George his recruiting expenses are not 
allowed, nor any of the Minute officers. I have got a warrant 
for ;^ 3-5-5 for the two guns charged in his account furnished 
the detachment of his company, which marched with Ensign 
Cofer. I have just spoken to Captain Lee about the two guns 
his company carried from Dumfries ; but he says he knows 
nothing about them, and unless George can make some other 
proof they will be lost, and no satisfaction received for them, 
especially as Captain Lee's Company with the rest of the Third 
Regiment is ordered to march immediately to Carolina. He 
should also get a certificate from Ensign Cofer for the musket he 
took of mine from John Tillet's shop ; though I had much rather 
have the musket returned, for as we have a bayonet for her she 
would now sell at £,^ los. 

As I don't think I can be up in time, George must do the best 
he can with our harvest, and must be as saving as he can of rum 
and provisions. Rum now sells here from 10/ to 12/ per gallon. 
He should have all the scythes and cradles and rakes got in order. 
Pray excuse haste, and believe me, dear Sir 

Your sincerely affectionate G. M. ' 

^ Mason Papers. 


Of the four important measures which make the Convention 
of 1776 eminent in the annals of Virginia, and in the history 
of the American people, three are to be ascribed to George 
Mason of Gunston, and the fourth, the resolution proposing 
independence, was passed before Mason took his seat in the 
Convention. George Mason, then, may be called, with truth, 
the pen of the revolution in Virginia. 

♦ We have two accounts of the Convention of 1776, written 
by men who were in its councils, both of them belonging to 
the younger generation of patriots, and both of them narra- 
ting their recollections of this eventful period after an interval 
of many years. Edmund Randolph, in his history of Virginia, 
% / and James Madison, in a private letter to one of Colonel 
Mason's grandsons, give us glimpses into the workings of 
this important assembly, and as both of them were on the 
committee charged with the duty of preparing the Bill of 
Rights and the Constitution, their testimony here should 
receive careful consideration. And yet, as it will appear, 
there is reason to doubt the entire trustworthiness of 
Edmund Randolph's reminiscences, and Madison's memories 
of this early time are at variance, in an important particular, 
with a statement of his made a year or two after the Con- 
vention met. Edmund Randolph describes the composition 
of the Convention : 

'' The members who filled the most space in the public eye 
were Edmund Pendleton, who presided, Patrick Henry, who 
had from some disgust resigned his command of the first 
Virginia regiment in time to be elected, George Mason, James 
Mercer, Robert Carter Nicholas, James Madison of Orange, 
Richard Bland, Thomas Ludwell Lee, Thomas Nelson, George 
Wythe, and John Blair. These were associated with members 
whose fortunes and unobtrusive good sense supported the ardor 
of the more active on the theatre of business." ' 

Then after giving an account of the earlier proceedings he 
continues : 

' MS. History of Virginia. 


''As soon as the Convention had pronounced the vote of 
independence, the formation of a constitution or frame of gov- 
ernment followed of course. For with the royal authority the 
existing organs of police and the laws ceased, and the tranquility 
of society was floating upon the will of popular committees, and 
the virtue of the people. . . . Mr. Jefferson who was in 
Congress urged a youthful friend in the Convention [Edmund 
Randolph] to oppose a permanent constitution, until the people 
should elect deputies for the special purpose. He denied the 
power of the body elected (as he conceived them to be agents for 
the management of the war) to exceed some temporary regimen. 
The member alluded to communicated the ideas of Mr. Jefferson 
to some of the leaders in the house, Edmund Pendleton, Patrick 
Henry, and George Mason. These gentlemen saw no distinction 
between the conceded power to declare independence, and its 
necessary consequence, the fencing of society by the institution 
of government. Nor were they sure, that to be backward in this 
act of sovereignty might not imply a distrust, whether the rule 
had been wrested from the king. ... A very large committee 
was nominated to prepare the proper instruments, and many 
projects of a bill of rights and constitution discovered the ardor 
for political notice, rather than a ripeness in political wisdom. 
That proposed by George Mason swallowed up all the rest, by 
fixing the grounds and plan, which after great discussion and 
correction, were finally ratified." ' 

Of the three leaders here named, Edmund Pendleton, 
as the presiding ofHcer, venerable in years and in experience, 
is put first pro forma. But the real headship was divided 
between Henry and Mason, the one the orator, the other 
emphatically the writer of the Convention, and the architect 
and master-builder of the new political structure. Bancroft 
says George Mason '' held most sway over the mind of the 

Edmund Randolph bears witness to the sustaining, illumi* 
nating power of Henry's eloquence in the debates on the 
motion for declaring independence. But in his analysis of 

^ IHd, 


^ the Bill of Rights, Edmund Randolph, overlooking appa- 
j^' rently his former assertion that George Mason's draft or 
" project/* as he calls it, " swallowed up all the rest,*' asserts 
that two of the articles were to be ascribed to Patrick Henry. 
" The fifteenth,** he says, " recommending an adherence and 
frequent recurrence to fundamental principles, and the six- 
teenth on fettering the exercise of religion were proposed 
by Mr, Henry. The latter coming from a gentleman who 
was supposed to be a dissenter, caused an appeal to him, 
whether it was designed as a prelude to an attack on the 
.K established church, and he disclaimed such an object." * We 
need not look beyond the life of Patrick Henry himself for 
a parallel experience to this of George Mason's in having 
the authorship of papers, on which rest some of his claims to 
fame, denied him. It is well known that one of the acts of 
his life on which Patrick Henry looked back with most satis- 
faction was the fact of having drafted the Resolves of 1765, 
which, in the words of Jefferson, set the ball of the revolution 
in motion. Yet Jefferson somewhere says that they were 
drawn up by George Johnston, and Johnston*s descendants 
have affirmed this abo ;. while Edmund Randolph asserted 
that they came from the pen of William Fleming. Professor 
Tyler, the latest biographer of Henry, after examining what 
he calls a " tissue of rumor, guesswork, and self-contradic- 
tion," rightly concludes that the " deliberate statement of 
Patrick Henry himself that he wrote the five resolutions . . . 
must close the discussion." Not only has the sole author- 
ship of the Bill of Rights been denied to George Mason, but 
his claim to having written the first draft of the Constitution 
has been impugned, on grounds as unsubstantial as those 
referred to in Henry's case. And over against " guesswork 
and self-contradiction " we have the " deliberate statement " 
of George Mason that he wrote the Bill of Rights, and infer- 
entially that he wrote the Constitution, as the two papers 
are to be considered as one instrument, and they are so 
denominated by Edmund Randolph, where he classes the two 
together as " that [project] proposed by George Mason." 


In the library of the Capitol at Richmond^ preserved in a 
glass case, is the manuscript of the Virginia Bill of Rights 
which was presented to the State of Virginia, February 15, 
1844, by General John Mason, the last surviving son of 
George Mason of Gunston. General Mason in his letter 
to the General Assembly on this occasion says of the 
manuscript : 

" It is believed to be the only original draft of that instniment 
now extant ; none being found in the archives of the common- 
wealth. The evidences of its authenticity are clear and un- 
doubted. It came into my possession from the papers of the 
author soon after his death, more than half a century since. It 
is throughout in his own handwriting. And its character as the 
first draft reported to the Convention is declared, as well by the 
memoranda with his initials prefixed as by the note at the foot of 
the manuscript. The memoranda describe the paper as the 
'Virginia Declaration of Rights in 1776. Copy of first Draught 
by G. M.* The note at the foot of the manuscript is in these 
words : ' This Declaration of Rights was (he first in America ; it 
received few alterations or additions in the Virginia Convention 
(some of them not for the better), and was afterwards closely 
imitated by the other United States.' " ' 

On the 2d of October, 1778, George Mason wrote to his 
cousin, Col. George Mercer, then in London, sending him a 
copy of the Bill of Rights, declaring himself to be the author 
in these words : 

" To show you that I have not been an idle spectator of this 
great contest, and to amuse you with the sentiments of an old 
friend upon an important subject, I enclose you a copy of the 
first draught of the declaration of rights just as it was drawn 
and presented by me^ to the Virginia Convention, where it received 
few alterations, some of them I think not for the better. This 
was the first thing of the kind upon the continent, and has been 9: 
closely imitated by all the States."* 

' Appendix x. 

* The draft of the Declaration of Rights sent to Col. George Mercer in 177S 
and the letter in which it was enclosed are now in possession of Dr. Thos. 
Addis Emmet of New York. 



And this paper Is to be seen now '' just as it was drawn 

and presented " by Colonel Mason. No copy of the Bill 

« ^ of Rights, or of the two articles in question, are to be 

^ found among Patrick Henry's papers, nor does Henry 

anywhere assert his authorship of these two articles, nor 

was such a claim made for him during his lifetime. There 

is only the unsupported statement of Edmund Randolph, 

committed to writing probably thirty years after the events 

which he recalls; whereas there is the deliberate assertion 

of George Mason in the confidence of private correspondence 

only two years and six months from the time of which he 

speaks that the Declaration of Rights was entirely his own 

composition, an assertion repeated by him, in substance, in 

the brief endorsement on the original drafts of this paper 

now extant. The biographer of Edmund Randolph prac- 

^ tically concedes that the latter must have been mistaken 

('4; in his recollection of the matter.' 

Corroborative testimony of Mason's authorship of the 
thirteenth article in the original draft is obtained through 
the paper drawn up by him for the Fairfax Independent 
Company in 1775. The first five articles of the Bill of 
Rights are also to be traced to this paper. In this business 
of a volunteer company, obscure and local in its nature, 
we find broad and general principles laid down, and it 
proved to be, as it were, a study for the great State paper 
of 1776. One of its postulates was "that no institution 
can be long preserved, but by frequent recurrence to those 
maxims on which it was formed." This is the groundwork 
of the thirteenth article (the fifteenth article, as the Bill of 
Rights now stands), yet we are asked to believe that George 
Mason in drafting the Bill of Rights studiously omitted 
what he had so recently declared of such importance, and 
that it was supplied by an amendment of Patrick Henry's. 
The paper, prepared for the conduct of a military organiza^ 
tion, would naturally only touch upon civil not upon re- 
ligious liberty, but in a charter of government the two ideas 

* " Life of Edmund Randolph/' p. 158. By Moncure D. Conway. 



would inevitably be found together. And George Mason 
wrote in the letter from which we have quoted : " We have 
laid our new government upon a broad foundation, and have 
endeavored to provide the most effectual securities for the 
essential rights of human nature, both in civil and religious 
liberty*' The italics are ours. It is not credible that, hold- 
ing such views, George Mason in his draft of a Bill of Rights 
should ignore the principle of religious liberty, and in the 
light of his consistent advocacy of religious freedom, in every 
stage of his public life from 1776 to 1788, the moral impossi- 
bility of his having omitted such an article from his '' ground 
and plan" of a Declaration of Rights is clearly manifest. 
Mason's paper, it may be affirmed with almost absolute cer- 
tainty, was prepared by him before he appeared in Conven- 
tion. The whole subject, very much of it as we find it there, 
had been thought out, it is apparent, months before and 
committed to writing. He certainly would not be idle at 
such a crisis. Nor would it be characteristic of him to pre- 
sent a plan that was in any way crude or incomplete. The 
principles of his Declaration of Rights were not original with 
him, of course. They were as old, some of them, as the 
Roman jurisprudence, and are to be found, more or less devel- 
oped, in Montesquieu, Algernon Sydney, Locke, and others. 

It may be expedient here to examine briefly the history 
of the Bill of Rights in its passage through the committee and 
through the Convention to see how the original draft fared 
in these two ordeals. Among George Mason's papers has 
been found a copy of the Declaration, the first part of it in 
the handwriting of Mason and the remainder in the hand- 
writing of Thomas Ludwell Lee. It is interesting as showing 
the appearance of the paper in one of its stages, as it was 
passing through the committee, and it indicates the order 
in which the articles were taken up for consideration. An 
article relating to ex post facto laws was added, and two other 
amendments were alluded to as likely to be adopted. There 
are also verbal changes in several of the original articles.' 

* Appendix x. 

\ "1 




This IS very probably the same draft that Thomas Ludwell 
Lee sent to his brother, Richard Henry Lee, some time in 
May, and of which he wrote, on the ist of June: 

'' I enclosed you by last post a copy of our declaration of rights 
nearly as it came through the committee. It has since been re- 
ported to the Convention, and we have ever since been stumbling 
at the threshold. In short, we find such difficulty in laying the 
foundation stone, that I very much fear for that Temple to 
Liberty which was proposed to be erected thereon. But laying 
aside figure, I will tell you plainly that a certain set of aristocrats, 
for we have such monsters here, finding that their execrable 
system cannot be reared on such foundations, have to this time 
kept us at bay on the first line, which declares all men to be bom 
equally free and independent. A number of absurd or unmean- 
ing alterations have been proposed. The words as they stand 
are approved by a very great majority, yet by a thousand masterly 
fetches and stratagems the business has been so delayed that the 
first clause stands yet unassented to by the Convention."* 

Edmund Randolph says of this discussion that '* the 
declaration in the first article of the Bill of Rights, that all 
j\ men are by nature equally free and independent, was opposed 
by Robert Carter Nicholas, as being the forerunner or pre- 
text of civil convulsion. It was answered perhaps with too 
great an indifference to futurity, and not without incon- 
sistency, that with arms in our hands, asserting the general 
rights of man, we ought not to be too nice and too much 
restricted in the declaration of them ; but that slaves, not 
being constituent members of our society, could never pre- 
tend to any benefit from such a maxim."* The Bill of Rights 
consisting of fourteen articles, as reported to the Convention 
v/ on the 27th of May, contained eighteen, and as finally 
amended and passed by the Convention on the 12th of June 
it was reduced to sixteen articles, the one on ex post facto 
laws having been omitted, and the sixth article of the original 

' Lee Papers. Southern Literary Messenger ^ new series, vol. vi., p. 325. 
• MS. History of Virginia. 



Mill li^ Iq^I 

1 T j! ^ 

1 i~$Ml' 





draft, which the committee had divided into two, being re- 
stored to its original unity.* The two new articles admitted 
declared general warrants to be grievous and offensive, and 
that the people have a right to uniform government. The 
Convention also inserted a few words into the first article of 
the original draft, and added something to the fifth. They 
also restored the fourth article to its original form, which was 
greatly superior to that proposed by the select committee. 

And here in the Convention also an alteration was made in 
the article on religion. Madison objected to the idea which 
he thought lay in the word " toleration," and he offered an 
amendment, given in full by Rives,* which, as modified by 
the committee of the whole, received the sanction of the 
Convention. It would seem probable that the question of 
religious liberty, in all its bearings, was discussed by the 
Convention at this point. And it may have been that Henry 
offered an amendment also, or, if not, it is likely that he 
entered with his wonted vehemence into the merits of the 
subject. Either here or in the select committee, it is proba- 
ble that his advocacy of the principle of freedom in religion 
— men remembering the part he had taken in the " Parson's 
Cause " — may have led to the query from some conservative 
member as to his designs on the Established Church, as 
reported by Edmund Randolph. The latter says that an \ 
article prohibiting bills of attainder, by whom proposed he 
does not state, was defeated by Patrick Henry, either in the 
committee or in the Convention, Henry drawing " a terrify- 
ing picture of some towering public offender, against whom 
ordinary laws would be impotent." 

In regard to the establishment of religious freedom in 
Virginia, George Mason's course, as we have said, was both a 
prominent and consistent one. The first legislation in the 
Virginia Assembly on this subject may be traced to him, as 
he was named first on the committee appointed to prepare 
an act in conformity with the religiouS section of the Bill of ^ 

* Appendix x. 

* " Life of Madison/' vol. i., p. 143 (note). 




tr Rights, at the meeting of the new House under the Constitu- 
tion. The second section of this act, undoubtedly drawn up 
by George Mason, begins with the preamble : 

*'And whereas there are within this commonwealth greati 
numbers of dissenters from the church established by law who! 
^ have been heretofore taxed for its support, and it is contrary to 
the principles of reason and justice that any should be compelled 
to contribute to the maintenance of a church with which their 
consciences will not permit them to join, and from which they 
can derive no benefit : for remedy whereof, and that equal liberty 
as well religious as civil, may be universally extended to all the 
good people of this commonwealth, be it enacted, &c.'* 

At this same session a committee of five members was ap- 
pointed to revise the laws of the commonwealth. These 
five were Jefferson, Pendleton, Wythe, George Mason and 
Thomas Ludwell Lee. They met at Annapolis, in January, 
1777, and decided on the plan of revision, assigning to each 
member his part. George Mason afterwards resigned from 
the committee, but not until the whole scheme was mapped 
out. In a letter written by Jefferson and Wythe, laid before 
the June Assembly, 1779, they state : 

" In the course of this work we were unfortunately deprived of 
the assistance of two of our associates appointed by the General 
Assembly, of the one by death [T. L. Lee], of the other by resig- 
nation. As the plan of the work had been settled, and agreeable 
to that plan it was in considerable degree carried into execution 
before that loss, we did not exercise the powers given us by 
the act, of filling up the places by new appointments, being 
desirous that the plan agreed on by members who were specially 
appointed by the Assembly, might not be liable to alteration from 
others who might not equally possess their confidence, it has 
therefore been executed by the three remaining members." ' 

Among these laws, planned in part by George Mason, was 
the " Act Establishing Religious Freedom," promulgated in 

» Hcning's'* Statutes." 


1785. The act suspending the salaries of clergymen, passed 
in 1776, was renewed each session, until in 1779 all laws 
providing salaries were finally repealed. The questioji of 
a general assessment for the support of religion still 
remained open. In the act of 1776, reference is made to the 
" great variety of opinion touching the propriety of a general 
assessment or voluntary contributions, and as this differ- 
ence of sentiment cannot now be well accommodated, it is 
thought prudent to defer this matter to the discussion and 
determination of a future Assembly." It came up for discus- 
sion and determination in 1784. Madison at the suggestion 
of George Mason and George Nicholas, drew up a remon- 
strance against the assessment, which was extensively 
circulated and signed throughout the State. Mason had a 
number of copies printed at his own expense for the purpose 
of distribution in the several counties. " And," writes Madi- 
son, '' under the influence of the public sentiment thus 
manifested, the celebrated bill establishing Religious Free- 
dom [was] enacted into a permanent barrier against any 
future attempts on the rights of conscience as declared in 
the great charter prefixed to the Constitution of the State." ' 
Madison says the assessment bill was '' patronized by the 
most popular talents in the House." The allusion is to 
Patrick Henry, and his action is here characterized as an 
attempt " on the rights of conscience," as declared in what 
Professor Tyler calls " Henry's article " of the Bill of 
Rights. ' And there is a disposition at the present day to 
class Patrick Henry among the " dissenters," to whom, in 
the person of this champion, religious freedom in Virginia 
is said to be chiefly indebted. The disestablishment 
of the Church in Virginia was the work of its own 
members, who in laying the foundations of their coun- 
try's liberty believed they should unselfishly sacrifice the 
privileges the law had hitherto secured to them, that 
civil and religious liberty might be found inseparably united. 

> MS. Letter of Madison, published in Rives' " Life of Madison." 
* " Life of Patrick Henry/* p. 184, American Statesmen Series. 





Patrick Henry was one of these patriots, and yet he 
did not embrace the whole plan of reform in his vision. 
George Mason saw clearly the course before him, and pur- 
sued it unflinchingly to the end ; while Henry, on the con- 
trary, nine years after the promulgation of the Bill of Rights, 
^j was employing all iiis oratory and his influence in support of 
a law taxing the people for religious purposes. 

In the Virginia Convention of 1788, George Mason was 
•chairman of the committee to prepare amendments to the 
Federal Constitution. In all probability, therefore, he fixed 
the " grounds and plan " here of the Bill of Rights and 
amendments which were offered in the Convention by 
Patrick Henry. And among George Mason's papers is a 
draft of a Bill of Rights and amendments differing in several 
respects from that adopted by the Convention. The twen- 
tieth article of the Bill of Rights in this manuscript is. as 
follows : 

" That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and 
the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and 
conviction, not by force and violence, and therefore all men have 
an equal, natural and unalienable right to the free exercise of 
religion, according to the dictates of conscience ; and that no 
particular sect or society of Christians ought to be favored or 
established by law in preference to others." 

Thus George Mason, by his acts no less than by his afiirma- 

jy"^ tions, sustains the claim made for him, of having in the 

» Convention of 1776 sought to provide " for the essential 

^ rights of human nature, both in civil and religious liberty." 

In clear, concise language George Mason enunciated in the 

Virginia Bill of Rights fourteen great principles as the basis 

of free government. The first declared the natural, inherent 

right of man to the enjoyment of life and liberty with all 

the privileges these entailed. In the second the power of 

rulers and magistrates is traced to its source in the people, 

to whom they are at all times amenable. There follows 


thirdly the axiom that the best government is that in which 
the rights above named are assured ; and the deduction is 
inevitable that a majority of the community may abolish a 
government that is inadequate to the purposes for which it 
was formed. The fourth article declares public services to 
be the title to public office, and since the former is not 
descendible, neither should the latter be hereditary. The 
article that follows enunciates an important principle held in 
theory by Great Britain, but practically at that time in abey- 
ance, that is, the separation of the legislative and executive 
powers from the judicial ; and the concluding clause declares 
the importance of frequently recurring cBid fbgular elections 
to insure the community from oppression. The sixth article 
asserts the importance of perfect freedQ|^ in the choice of 
the legislative body ; and in regard to the suffrage, pro- 
nounces it the right of all men giving evidence of a perma- 
nent interest in the community, while the concluding clause 
declares against taxation without the consent of those taxed 
or their representatives, the same consent being necessary to 
bind the governed by any law whatever. Continuing this 
subject, the next article pronounces against the suspension 
or execution of laws without the consent of the people's 
representatives. The three articles that follow relate to the 
rights of a citizen in his relation to the judiciary. In crimi- 
nal prosecutions he has the four privileges of demanding the 
nature of his accusation, of being confronted with the 
accusers and witnesses, of calling for evidence in his favor, 
and of a speedy trial by an impartial jury of his vicinage. 
Also, he cannot be found guilty without the jury's unani- 
mous consent, nor is he compelled to give evidence against 
himself. And no man's liberty can be taken from him but by 
the law of the land or the judgment of his peers. The second 
of these articles pronounces against excessive bail, excessive 
fines, and cruel or unusual punishments. The last article of 
this triad declares in favor of the desirability and sacredness 
of trial by jury in suits respecting property and between 
man and man. The eleventh article of this Declaration of 


Rights holds up the freedom of the press as one of the great 
bulwarks of liberty. In the twelfth article a well-regulated 
militia is advocated as the natural and safe defence of a free 
State ; standing armies are pronounced dangerous in time of 
peace, and it is declared that the military should be at all 
times subordinate to the civil power. The thirteenth article 
relates to the importance of a frequent recurrence to funda- 
mental principles, and a firm adherence to the four civic 
virtues of justice, moderation, temperance, frugality. The 
principle of religious liberty is advocated in the fourteenth 
article as the apex of the pyramid. The two articles that 
are found in the fiill of Rights as adopted, were not of a 
fundamental nature. They are inserted in the paper as the 
tenth and fourte^^h articles, so that the two which conclude 
George Mason's draft appear as the fifteenth and sixteenth 
in the amended instrument. 

A recent writer has noticed that in the extension of the 
suffrage to " all men having sufficient evidence of permanent 
common interest with and attachment to the community," 
provided by the sixth article of the Bill of Rights, George 
Mason recurred to the theory of the Virginia suffrage law of 
1656, that it was "something hard and unagreeable to reason, 
that any person shall pay taxes, and have no votes in elec- 
tion." * The Bill of Rights has been the subject of several 
critical eulogies by Virginians, of which the first, in point of 
time, was that contributed by Theodorick Bland in 18 19 to 
the famous revolutionary compilation of Niles.* Bland 
says of it : 

*' This declaration contains principles more extensive, and much 
more perspicuously expressed than any then to be found in the 
supposed analogous instruments of any other age or country. 
The English magna charta was, strictly speaking, a contract be- 
tween an assemblage of feudal lords and a king, not a declaration 
of the rights of man, and the fundamental principles on which 

* Virginia Carohrum, Neill, note to p. 330. 

* " Principles and Acts of the Revolution," p. lar. 




all government should rest. The articles drawn up by the Span- / 
ish junta, in the year 1522, under the guidance of thcf celebrated / 
Padilla, are much more distinct and popular in their provisions / 
than those of the English magna charta. But, although it is 
admitted that th6 principles of liberty were ably defended, and 
better understood at that time in Spain than they were for more J 
than a century after in England, the power of Charles^^ proved 
to be irresistible, the people failed in their attempt to bridle his 
prerogative, and their liberties were finally crushed./ The famous 
English bill of rights, sanctioned by William and Mary on their 
ascending the throne, and which, under the name of the petition 
of rights, appears to have been projected many years before by I 
that profound lawyer, Sir Edward Coke, like magna charta and 
the articles of the Spanish junta, is a contract with nobility and 
royalty, a compromise with despotism, in which the voice of the 
people is heard in a tone of disturbed supplication and prayer. 
But in this declaration of Mason's man seems to stand erect in 
all the majesty of his nature, to assert the inalienable rights and 
equality with which he has been endowed by his Creator, and to 
declare the fundamental principles by which all rulers should be 
controlled, and in which all governments should rest. The con- 
trast is striking, the difference prodigious.'' 

Grigsby, in his sketch of George Mason, contrasts the 
Virginia Bill of Rights with the Petition of Right addressed 
to Charles I., and the Declaration of Rights on the accession 
of William and Mary. One of these simply enumerates laws 
that had been violated, and prays that they may be observed ; 
the other was "wholly historical and retrospective in its 
scope," while the " Virginia declaration was eminently pros- 
pective." / Of the latter, this writer says : 

" Some of its expressions may be gleaned from Sydney, from 
Locke, and from Burgh ; but when Mason sat down in his room 
in the Raleigh Tavern to write that paper, it is probable that no 
copy of the reply to Sir Robert Filmer, or of the Essay on Gov- 
ernment, or of the Political Disquisitions, was within his reach. 
The diction, the design, the thoughts are all his own. Nor 
does its beauty and its worth suffer in comparison with similar 
productions carefully prepared at a later day." 




Assuming, however, that George Mason brought his Decla- 
ration of Rights with him to Williamsburg, and that he had 
written it in his library with Magna Charta, etc., and the 
books above referred to within his reach, a comparison of its 
text with these sources of inspiration will not diminish its 
merits as a remarkable and original document. '' It is a 
curious illustration of the supremacy accorded to genius in 
great conjunctures," writes Grigsby, " that the British Declara- 
tion of Right and the Virginia Declaration of Rights were 
written by men who had recently taken their seats for the 
first time in deliberative assemblies which were composed 
of the oldest and ablest statesmen of their respective periods. 
When Somers drafted the Declaration of Right he had 
spoken in the House of Commons for the first time only ten 
days before, and the parliamentary experience of Mason was 
hardly more extended." But Somers, as he adds, was an 
able lawyer deeply versed in constitutional learning, " while 
Mason was a planter, untutored in the schools, whose life 
. . . had been spent in a thinly settled colony which 
presented no sphere for ambition." And Grigsby 
concludes : " The genius of the Virginian appears ycv bolder 
relief when contrasted with the genius of his illustrious 
prototype." * Elsewhere, in regard to the title of this paper 
of I ^^6^ Grigsby observes : 

" It is remarkable that the Virginia Declaration of Rights was 
always spoken of in debate, even by Mason who drafted it, as the 
Bill of Rights — a name appropriate to the British Bill of Rights, 
which was first the petition of Right, and was then enacted into 
a law ; but altogether inapplicable to our Declaration, which had 
never been a bill, and was superior to all bills. It is true that 
the Declaration of Rights was read three times in the Convention 
which adopted it ; but so was the Constitution, which nobody 
would call a bill." « 

Comparing the Declaration of Rights with the Declaration 
of Independence, Grigsby describes the one " as the admira* 

* ** Virginia Convention of 1776," p. i6a. 

" •• History of the Virginia Federal Convention," note, p. 260. 


ble work of the political philosopher, the other the chaste A 
production of the elegant historian ; and as philosophy is of 
higher dignity than history, so is the Declaration of Rights 
superior to the Declaration of Independence." ' Henry Lee, 
in his strictures on Jefferson, pays a high tribute to the Bill 
of Rights and its author, and he singles out the fourth article 
of the former for special commendation. " Mr. Jefferson," he 
says, " as a lawgiver was far inferior to a man whom in popu- 
lar favor and public honors he far outstripped. This man 
was George Mason. There is more wisdom, more condensa- 
tion of thought and energy of reasoning in a single clause of 
the Virginia Bill of Rights from the pen of that truly great 
man than in all the works of Mr. Jefferson put together. 
This clause is as follows : * That no man or set of men is 
entitled to exclusive or separate emoluments or privileges 
from the commonwealth but in consideration of public ser- 
vices, which not being descendible neither ought the offices 
of magistrate, legislator, or judge to be hereditary.* Here 
is a volume of wit and wisdom for the study of nations em- 
bodied in a single sentence and expressed in the plainest 
language. If a deluge of despotism should sweep over the 
world and destroy those institutions under which freedom is 
yet protected, sweeping into oblivion every vestige of their 
remembrance among men, could this single sentence of 
Mason's be preserved it would be sufHcient to rekindle the 
flame of liberty and revive the race of freemen."' 

William C. Rives characterizes the Bill of Rights as " a 
condensed, logical and luminous summary of the great prin- 
ciples of freedom inherited by us from our British ancestors ; 
the extracted essence of Magna Charta, the Petition of Right, 
the Acts of the Long Parliament, and the doctrines of the 
Revolution of 1688 as expounded by Locke, — distilled and 
concentrated through the alembic of his [George Mason's] 
own powerful and discriminating mind. There is nothing 
more remarkable in the political annals of America than this 
paper. It has stood the rude test of every vicissitude : and 

' " Virginia Convention of 1776," p. 165. 

* Lee*s " Remarks on Jefferson,*' p. 127 ; Philadelphia, 1839. 


while Virginia has already had three constitutions, the 
Declaration of Rights of 1776 has stood and yet stands, with- 
out the change of a letter, at the head of each one of them 
however difRcult it may be to reconcile with some of its 
principles the provisions of the later constitutions." * The 
Massachusetts bill of rights and all succeeding instruments of 
the kind adopted by the different colonies were modelled upon 
the Virginia charter, and its principles were engrafted in the 
amendments to the Federal Constitution. Jefferson, in the 
Declaration of Independence, repeated its cardinal maxims, 
and adopted many of its phrases. Randall, in his '' Life of 
Jefferson," informs us that the writing-desk on which the 
latter wrote the Declaration of Independence, in a lodging- 
house in Philadelphia, has been preserved, and bears an 
inscription on it in his own handwriting. And it may not 
be uninteresting to the student of our political history to 
learn that the table on which George Mason wrote the Bill 
of Rights is also still in existence. After being carefully 
cherished for three generations by the family of George 
Mason's eldest son, it was presented in 1881 to the Virginia 
Historical Society.' 

In the absence of any autograph copy of the first draft of 
the Constitution, George Mason's authorship of it has been 
denied. And it has been said in support of this assumption 
that while in his letter to Colonel Mercer he distinctly affirms 
that he wrote the Bill of Rights, a copy of which he sends 
his relative, he is silent in regard to his authorship of the 
Constitution; and in fact uses .the plural pronoun in speak- 
ing of it, where he says : " We have laid our new govern- 
ment upon a broad foundation, &c." To this cavil the 
reply naturally follows that George Mason regarded both 
papers as parts of one instrument, but the Declaration of 
Rights as the more important of the two he was at the pains 
to transcribe for Colonel Mercer's perusal. This new govern- 
ment, which was " to provide the most effectual securities 
for the essential rights of human nature, both in civil and 

* " Life of Madison," p. 137. ' Appendix x. 


religious liberty," not only included the charter of rights, 
and constitution, but the acts of legislation of the first State 
assemblies. George Mason here speaks in the name of the 
Convention and the legislative body of the new common- 
wealth, two years after the government had gone into opera- 
tion. Many of George Mason's papers are known to have 
been lost at an early period in a (ire which consumed the 
dwelling-house of one of his sons ; and doubtless his draft 
of a constitution was among these manuscripts. It has 
been seen that Edmund Randolph, in giving an account of 
the Convention, says of both the Bill of Rights and the Con- 
stitution, that, while many were proposed, George Mason's 
"swallowed up all the rest." He here uses the singular 
number, assuming that the two are one instrument. After- 
wards he writes of them in the plural number, and says that, 
" after great discussion and correction, [they] were finally 
ratified." There was great discussion on the Bill of Rights, ^ 

but very little " correction " ; and the latter word must refer 
more particularly to the Constitution, which as adopted was 
somewhat altered and greatly amended, or drawn out into 
detail. In discussing what he considered the faults of the 
first Virginia Constitution, Edmund Randolph again cor- 
roborates George Mason's authorship of it, in these words: 
" By a further analysis of the Constitution, a lesson will be 
taught, that the most expanded mind, — as that of George 
Mason's was, who sketched the Constitution, — cannot secure 
itself from oversights and negligences in the tumult of hetero- 
geneous and indistinct ideas of government, circulating in a 
body, unaccustomed to much abstraction." ' 

While the results of the Convention of 1776 were fresh 
in the minds of his contemporaries, George Mason's 
authorship of the Constitution was spoken of, it would 
seem, as a well established fact. So Madison wrote to 
Washington, in 1787, referring to one of Mason's objec- 
tions to the Federal Constitution: "The Constitution 
of Virginia, drawn up by Col. Mason himself, is absolutely 

« MS. History of Virginia. 



silent on this subject." ' It was not until long after 
Colonel Mason's death that the matter was ever called in 
question. In 1825 most of the associates and compeers of 
George Mason had passed away. But there were two living, 
one of them having been in the Convention of 1776, who had 
successively held the highest office in the gift of the Federal 
Government: these were. Jefferson and Madison. There 
was also living a third one of Virginia's revolutionary 
patriots, — James Monroe, at this time President of the 
United States. It was the year before Jefferson's death, 
when Judge Woodward," in writing the history of this period, 
perceiving the resemblance between the preamble to the 
Virginia Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, 
came to the conclusion that the Constitution was altogether 
Jefferson's work. Madison knew this to be incorrect, and he 
so informed Judge Woodward. The latter wrote to Jeffer- 
son from Washington, enclosing a letter from Madison on 
the subject, and telling him Monroe's theory : 

" President Monroe, who carefully compared the constitution 
of Virginia with other documents known to have proceeded from 
your pen, was originally of opinion that my statement was sub- 
stantially correct, — being under the impression that the draft 
was first offered by Mr. Mason, at Williamsburg ; yet it was de- 
rived from a manuscript furnished by you, from Philadelphia. 
Since the perusal of the letter of President Madison, President 
Monroe wavers somewhat from his first statement." 

Monroe, who was not in the Convention of 1776, had evi- 
dently very indistinct recollections of what he had heard on 
the subject at the time. Jefferson replied to Judge Wood- 
ward from " Monticello " : 

'< The fact is unquestionable that the Bill of Rights and the 
Constitution of Virginia were drawn originally by George Mason, 
one of our really great men, and of the first order of greatness. 

• •• Life and Writings of Washington," vol. ix., p. 547. 
' A Virginian, judge of the Territory of Florida from 1824 until his death, 
in 1837. He had been previously a judge of the Territory of Michigan. 


The history of the preamble to the latter was as follows : I was 
then in Philadelphia, with Congress, and knowing that the Con- 
vention in Virginia was engaged in forming a plan of govern- 
ment, I turned my mind to the same subject, and drew a sketch 
outline of a constitution, with a preamble, which I sent to Mr. 
Pendleton, President of the Convention, on the mere probability 
that it might suggest something worth incorporating into that 
before them. He informed me afterwards, by letter, that he re- 
ceived it on the day on which the committee of the whole had 
reported to the house the plan they had agreed on, that, that had 
been so long on hand, so disputed inch by inch, the subject of much 
altercation and debate, that they were worried with the alterca- 
tion it had produced, and could not from mere lassitude have 
been induced to open the instrument again ; but that, being 
pleased with the preamble of mine, they adopted it in the house, 
by way of amendment to the report of the committee ; and thus 
my preamble became tacked on to the work of George Mason."* 

This Jefferson constitution, in the original draft, has 
lately come to light, after having been lost apparently for a 
hundred years, and may be compared with that of George 
Mason. Jefferson wrote also to Henry Lee, in 1825, or 
about that time ; " That George Mason was the author of the 
bill of rights, and of the constitution founded on it, the evi- 
dence of the day established fully in my mind." Though 
Jefferson was not in the Convention of 1776, he was associ- 
ated later with George Mason in the legislation of the new 
government ; and they were also personal friends, and gen- 
erally in sympathy on public questions. Madison wrote of 
the Constitution to Judge Woodward : 

" Its origin was with George Mason, who laid before the com- 
mittee appointed to prepare a plan a very broad outline, which 
was printed by the committee for consideration, and after being 
varied on some points and filled up, was reported to the Con- 
vention, where a few further alterations gave it the form in which 
it now stands. The declaration of rights was subsequently [?] 
from the same hand." 

' "Jefferson's Works," vol. vH., p. 405. 


But two years later Madison writes : 

*' It is not known with certainty from whom this first plan 
of government proceeded. There is a faint tradition that 
Meriwether Smith spoke of it as originating with him. What 
is remembered by J. M. is that George Mason was the most 
prominent member in discussing and developing the constitu- 
tion in its passage through the convention."' 

In a letter to a grandson of George Mason, written De- 
cember 29, 1827, Madison repeats this statement. He says 
of George Mason : 

" My first acquaintance with him was in the Convention of 
Virginia in 1776, which instructed her delegates to propose in 
Congress a ' Declaration of Independence/ and which formed 
the ' Declaration of Rights/ and the ' Constitution ' for the State. 
Being young and inexperienced, I had, of course, but little 
agency in those proceedings. I retain, however, a perfect im- 
pression that he was a leading champion for the Instruction ; 
that he was the author of the ' Declaration,' as originally drawn, 
and, with very slight variations, adopted ; and that he was the 
master-builder of the Constitution, and its main expositor and 
supporter throughout the discussions which ended in its estab- 
lishment. How far he may have approved it, in all its features 
as established, I am not able to say ; and it is the more difficult 
to make the discovery now, unless the private papers left by him 
should give the information, as, at that day no debates were 
taken down, and as the explanatory votes, if such there were, may 
have occurred in committee of the whole only, and of course, not 
appear in the journals. I have found, among my papers, a printed 
copy of the constitution in one of its stages, which, compared 
with the instrument finally agreed to, shows some of the changes 
it underwent ; but in no instance, at whose suggestion or by 
whose votes. 

'' I have also a printed copy of a sketched constitution which 
appears to have been the primitive draught on the subject. It is 
so different, in several respects, from the constitution finally 

> ** Writings of Madison," vol. iii., p. 451 ; Rives' *' Life of Madison/* vol. 
I., p. 159. 


passed, that it may be more than doubted whether it was from 
the pen of your grandfather. There is a tradition that it was 
from that of Meriwether Smith ; whose surviving papers, if to be 
found among his descendants, might throw light on the question. 
I ought to be less at a loss than I am in speaking of these 
circumstances, having been myself an added member to the 
committee. But such has been the lapse of time that, without 
any notes of what passed, and with the many intervening scenes 
absorbing my attention, my memory cannot do justice to my 
wishes. Your grandfather, as the journal shows, was at a later 
day, added to the Committee, being, doubtless, not present when 
it was appointed, or he never would have been overlooked." ' 

Madison's memory is seen to be at fault here, in one 
respect. He says he retained " a perfect impression that he 
[George Mason] was a leading champion for the Instruction." 
This, the resolution for declaring independence, as we know, 
was passed before Mason arrived in the Convention. He 
was doubtless a "champion^ of the measure, but neither 
Madison nor himself was present when the subject was 
debated in the Virginia Convention. Rives, in his discussion 
of the subject, urges a " piece of presumptive evidence " in 
support of the " faint tradition " that ascribed the Constitu- 
tion to Meriwether Smith. This consists in the fact that 
the word "judicative" instead of "judicial" is found in the 
Brst draft of the Constitution, and it is also found in the 
revision of the Bill of Rights by the select committee. This 
last, Rives assumes, was written by Meriwether Smith, 
because he was second on the committee, and because a 
draft of the Bill of Rights in his handwriting was found 
among his papers. But it seems quite as likely that Thomas 
Ludwell Lee was the draftsman here as that Meriwether 
Smith was. However, when Rives wrote that " there is no 
known instance in which Colonel Mason used the word judica^ 
tive for judicial," he was not aware, evidently, of the existence 
of Mason's " Extracts from the Virginia Charters, etc," 
written in 1773, in which the word occurs. And in 1765 he 

* " Life of Madison/' p. 160. 



wrote of "a court of judicature." George Mason, in the 
paper of 1773, speaks "of the executive, the legislative, and 
the judicative powers of the State." And he also has the 
phrase " our judicial system," showing that he was in the 
habit of employing both terms. 

Col. Meriwether Smith, one of the members representing 
Essex County in the Convention of 1776, was undoubtedly 
a man of ability. And like Jefferson, like Richard Henry 
Lee and others, he had very probably made a draft of a 
constitution. He had prepared a set of resolves proposing 
independence, as we know, and a grandson of his, Mr. J. 
Adams Smith, in 1847 wrote John Tyler the following legend 
on the subject. It came from Judge John B. Clopton, who 
recollected " to have seen in Judge Tyler's library his copy of 
the first volume of Hening's Statutes at large, and there 
was a MS: note in the hand-writmg of Judge Tyler to the 
resolutions instructing the representatives in Congress from 
Virginia to propose a declaration of Independence adopted 
by the Convention of Virginia on the fifteenth of May, 1776, 
in which Judge Tyler said that Meriwether Smith of the 
county of Westmoreland was the writer of the resolutions." 
Mr. J. Adams Smith had also been told twenty years be- 
fore (which would be in 1827, when Madison wrote of his 
doubts) by Mr. William F. Pendleton that his " grandfather 
Meriwether Smith prepared the first written constitution. 
How he obtained the information, or upon what authority 
he asserted it, I do not recollect that he informed me." * 
The error of Madison as to the Constitution, and the error 
of Judge Tyler as to the resolution of independence arose 
both of them from the fact that a multiplicity of drafts had 
been offered in the Convention. Smith had his draft of the 
latter, but Pendleton's was preferred, as also his draft of a 
bill of rights and constitution, but Mason's was preferred. 

Bancroft, referring to the work of the Virginia Convention, 
says : " In framing the Constitution George Mason had a 
principal part, aided by the active participation of Richard 

> MS. letter owned by Lyon G. Tyler, Virginia. 


Henry Lee and of George Wythe." * If the words " the 
principal part " were substituted for " a principal part " to 
describe George Mason*s work in framing the Virginia Con- 
stitution they would be nearer the truth. Richard Henry 
Lee, from what we know of his views on the subject, was in 
essential accord with Mason, and doubtless the two friends 
had discussed together the great principles of constitutional 
government. But Lcc was not in the Convention, and there 
is no evidence that he exercised any controlling influence 
over it by correspondence or otherwise. He was urged to 
leave Congress, to aid in the counsels of his State, but did 
not do so. George Wythe, however, came on for the pur- 
pose, bringing Jefferson's draft of a constitution with him, 
and he wrote to the latter on the 27th of July, giving an 
account of the matter, which differs from Jefferson's as 
quoted above : 

" When I came here the plan of government had been com- 
mitted to the whole house. To those who had the chief hand in 
forming ity the one you put into my hands was shown. Two or 
three parts of this were with little alteration inserted in that." 

It is evident that Wythe's " active participation " in 
" framing the Constitution " must have been of a very 
general and theoretic nature, consisting possibly in sugges- 
tions prior to the meeting of the Convention, and again 
after the Constitution had passed through the ordeal of the 
select committee. He certainly does not assume for himself 
a " chief hand in forming it.** It was at the instance of 
Richard Henry Lee that John Adams sketched the draft of 
a constitution, when the subject of a change of government 
was being discussed by Congress in November, 1775. And 
in January, 1776, John Adams wrote his " Thoughts on Gov- 
ernment ** in. the form of a letter to George Wythe at the 
latter*s request, and it was published in compliance with the 
wish of Richard Henry Lee, to whom it was shown in manu- 
script. The pamphlet was sent to various political friends of 

1 ** History of the United States," vol. viii., chap. Uviii., p. 434. 


John Adams, and among others to Patrick Henry, calling 
forth his letter of the 20th of May, where, in speaking of 
the magnitude of the work before the Virginia Conven- 
tion, he wishes for the assistance of the Adamses, John and 
Samuel, as he had no " coadjutor " equal to the task. This 
seems not a little singular when we recall the eminent names 
on the committee in the Virginia Convention. As George 
Mason had then been but two days in Williamsburg, we 
must conclude that Henry had either not met him or over- 
looked the fact of his arrival. The tract of John Adams is 
not believed to have exercised any influence on the Conven- 
tion, and it falls short in an important point of the wisdom 
displayed in George Mason's draft, as it provided for the 
election of one branch of the legislature, a senate or coun- 
cil to be chosen by the other branch or house, out of its own 
body or the community at large. 
\ 1^'*- Among Madison's papers was preserved a printed copy of 
1 the first draft of the Constitution, the only one that is to 
be found, and no manuscript copy, as has been said, is be- 
lieved to be extant. This printed draft was endorsed in the 
handwriting of Madison as the plan laid before the select 
committee, " and by them ordered to be printed for the 
perusal of the members of the House." There is no copy 
of the Constitution as it was reported to the committee 
of the whole House, and it is therefore impossible to tell 
what changes were made by the select committee. As 
\ finally passed by the Convention, it was altered in some 
points, and much expanded, though consisting of the same 
number of sections, and the articles, which were in the 
original draft, worded in the form of recommendations, 
were made into authoritative enactments.' It was discussed 
for three days in the Convention, and reported with amend- 
ments, but just what these were cannot now be ascertained. 
The Constitution in its original form, after naming the 
three departments into which the government should be 
divided, proceeded to define the legislature as consisting 

* Appendix x. 


of two branches which were to meet once a year. The 
third section described the composition of the " Lower 
House of Assembly " and the qualifications for the suf- 
frage. The fourth defined the " Upper House of Assem- 
bly " ; and the fifth related to the right of each House to 
make its own rules, and extended the right of suffrage. 
By the sixth section it was declared that all laws should 
originate in the Lower House, except in the case of money j^ 
bills.^ The seventh defined the office of the executive, 
and the eighth provided for a privy council. The gov- 
ernor and council were given the appointment of militia 
officers by the ninth section, and the control of the militia 
under the laws. The tenth provided for the appointment 
of the several courts by the two Houses of Assembly, 
to be commissioned by the executive. The following sec- 
tion gave the governor and council the appointment of 
justices of the peace, and provided for other subordinate 
officers. The power of impeaching the executive, and 
other officers of government, by the Lower House, in 
case of mal-administration, was provided for by the twelfth 
section. And the thirteenth declared that commissions 
and writs should run in the name of the commonwealth. 
A treasurer was provided for by the fourteenth section ; 
and the fifteenth and concluding section stated the man- 
ner in which the new government should be introduced. 
The amendments consisted of an additional clause to the 
first section, carrying out into more detail its principle of 
the separation of the three branches of government; the 
addition of two clauses to the third section ; changes in the 
fifth, seventh, and eighth sections ; additional clauses to the 
ninth section, giving in fuller detail the powers of the 
executive over the militia ; an additional clause to the tenth 
section ; additions to the eleventh and twelfth sections ; two 
amendments to the fourteenth section, and an alteration in 
the fifteenth section. The change in the third section, in 
regard to the right of suffrage, merely defined more particu- 
larly the qualifications according to the existing law ; and 



the amendments here gave representatives to certain 
boroughs, and provided for the disfranchisement of others. 
Edmund Randolph says, in this connection : 

"It may surprise posterity that, in the midst of the most 
pointed declamations in the Convention against the inequality of 
representation in the British House of Commons, it was submitted 
to in Virginia without a murmur, and even without a proposition 
to the contrary. , . . That the qualification of electors 
to the General Assembly should be restricted to freeholders, 
was the natural effect of Virginia having been habituated to it 
for very many years — more than a century. The members of 
the Convention were themselves freeholders, and from this 
circumstance felt a proud attachment to the country in which 
the ownership of the soil was a certain source of comfort. It is 
not recollected that a hint was uttered in contravention of this 
principle. There can be no doubt that, if it had been, it would 
have soon perished under a discussion." * 

One of the most noticeable alterations in the Constitution, 
as sketched by George Mason, is that in the fourth section, 
relating to the election of the senate. It had been provided 
that the counties should be divided into twenty-four districts, 
and each county should choose twelve deputies, or sub- 
electors, and these deputies in turn were to elect the senate, 
one from each district. The amendment did away with the 
sub-electors, making the senate more directly the choice of 
the people. The provisions in the fifth section for extend- 
ing the suffrage in two specified cases were not agreed to by 
the Convention. Here was a **hint" in contravention to 
the principle of freehold suffrage which evidently " perished 
under a discussion." George Mason, in attempting to carry 
out to some extent the suffrage theory of the Bill of Rights, 
was evidently, as on other occasions, in advance of the 
majority of his contemporaries. In the seventh section the 
power of the executive was more fully defined, and further 
limitations put upon it. Patrick Henry, on the contrary, 
wished to strengthen the executive, by giving the governor 

* MS. History of Virginia. 


the right of a veto on the acts of the legislature.' The 
alteration in the eighth section had a tendency to weaken 
still more the executive branch, and strengthen the legis- 
lative, where the balance of power would have been more 
strictly observed by the provision of the original draft. The 
council, which was to consist of eight members, chosen from 
both Houses, or from the people at large, two of whom 
were to be removed every three years, their places being 
supplied by new elections, had, by the plan of George Mason, 
the power to make this removal by ballot of its own board. 
As amended, the two members were to* be removed by, 
joint ballot of both houses of Assembly. A curious amend- 
ment to the tenth section was that excluding ministers of 
the Gospel from seats in the Assembly or council. All per- 
sons holding lucrative offices were excluded in like manner. 
An important amendment was added to the fourteenth 
section, confirming, on the part of Virginia, the colonies of 
Maryland, Pennsylvania, and the two Carolinas, in their 
territories, as defined by their several charters ; excepting, 
however, the free navigation and use of the two rivers which 
separated Maryland from Virginia. The western and north- 
ern boundary of Virginia was declared to be that which was 
fixed by the charter of 1609, in all other respects ; a boundary 
defined later by the treaty of peace between Great Britain 
and France in 1763. No separate government was to be 
established west of the AUeghanies but by act of the 
Virginia Legislature, and no purchase of lands to be made 
from the Indians, but on behalf of the public and by 
authority of the Assembly. These provisions were taken in 
part from the Jefferson draft, very probably, and are the 
clauses to which Wythe refers as inserted, " with little 
alteration," in the Virginia Constitution. The most notice- 
able " alteration ** was that which reserved to Virginia the 
free navigation of the rivers Potomac and Pocomoke. And 
it is very likely that this was due to George Mason's 
vigilance. His earlier writings show his familiarity with the 

^ IHd, 


question of Virginia's charter rights, and his intelligent advo- 
cacy of them ; and his work on the Constitution did not 
stop with the skeleton draft accepted by the committee. 
He was, as Madison says, prominent in ''discussing and 
developing the constitution in its passage through the 

Jefferson, a few years later, in his " Notes on Virginia,** 
made sweeping strictures on the Constitution, and he asserts 
in one of his lette^that George Mason was willing to see it 
altered. But tj^frfe is no evidence of this in anything under 
Mason's hand that has come down to us. Jefferson main- 
tained that the balance of power between the three depart- 
ments of government was not duly preserved, the legislature 
usurping functions that properly belonged to the executive 
y and judiciary, and this opinion is endorsed by a recent 
writer on the subject.* On the other hand, Grigsby writes of 
the Virginia Constitution : 

*' It is to the wisdom of Mason we owe the great American 
principle, that the legislature, the most dangerous of all, should 
be bound by a rule as stringent as the executive and the judicial 
'departments]. Even in a republic the legislature might still 
lave been supreme. It is therefore the peculiar honor of Mason 
that he not only drafted the first regular plan of government of a 
sovereign state, but circumscribed the different departments by 
limits which they may not transcend."' 

It is the opinion of many in Virginia that the changes 
that have been made in the Constitution of the State since 
1776 have not, on the whole, improved it. It was not until 
1829 that a new Convention was called to revise it. John 
Randolph, of Roanoke, was a delegate, and he appeared each 
morning, it is said, with crape on his hat and sleeves, '' in 
mourning,** as he declared, for the old Constitution, as he 
feared he had come to " witness its death and burial.*' And 
he spoke afterwards of the many plans submitted to the 

' " Johns Hopkins University Studies," third series, *' American Constitu- 
• Convention of 1776. 


Convention, where "every man thought himself a George 
Mason.** * Rives wrote in 1859: 

'' In looking back to the Constitution of 1776 with all the lights 
which the intermediate experience of eighty years has shed on 
the science of popular government, we cannot but be struck with 
the reach of practical wisdom and sagacious statesmanship 
exhibited in its construction. . . . There cannot be a more 
striking proof of the real merits and essential wisdom of the 
Constitution of 1776 than that in an age of change and revolu- 
tion it firmly maintained its ground, for a period of fifty-four years, 
against the persevering assaults of a host of critics and theorists, 
sustained by the authority of some of the highest names in the 
State ; and, when at last it was superseded by a new experiment* 
which in its turn has given place to another, that there is hardly 
now a thinking man of any party in Virginia who would not 
gladly exchange the modern structure and all its imagined 
improvements for the ancient Constitution, just as it was, with 
only a necessary readjustment of the representation to the 
changes which have taken place in the local distribution of the 

Virginia's claim to have given to America and to the 
world the first written constitution of a free State * has been 
strangely denied or suppressed by Northern writers and his- 
torians. Bancroft, in his chapter on " The Constitutions of 
the Several States,'* says that " Massachusetts which was 
the first State to conduct a government independent of the 
king . . . assuming that the place of governor was 
vacant from the 19th July, 1775, recognized the Council as 
the legal successor to executive power." He then enu- 
merates four other States which formed governments, and 
makes the extraordinary statement that Virginia was " sixth 
in the series," though he considerately adds, "first in the 
completion of her work.** * The Virginia Convention of July 

* '• Howe's Historic Collections." 

■ '* Life and Times of Madison," vol. i., pp. 153-158. 

' The only plausible exception to this statement is the Cromwellian Constitu- 
tion of 1653 or Instrument of Government, 

< " History of America," vol. ix., ch. xv. See also *' Johns Hopkins Univer- 
sity Studies," third series. *' American Constitutions," etc., etc. 


17, 1775, as has been seen, "assuming that the place of 
governor was vacant," conducted a " government indepen- 
dent of the king," and appointed a Committee of Safety, 
Augfust 17th, with executive powers for the emergency. Be- 
fore the other colonies had moved in the matter Virginia 
declared independence, pronouncing her connection with 
Great Britain "totally dissolved," on the 29th of June, 1776. 
New Hampshire and South Carolina, named by Bancroft as 
forming governments next after Massachusetts, expressly de- 
clared them " provisional," and were careful not to renounce 
their connection with Great Britain. Rhode Island and 
Connecticut named fourth and fifth by Bancroft, have no 
pretence whatever to priority over Virginia, the one merely 
substituting the name of the people for that of the king in its 
charter, in May, 1776; the other forming its government as 
late as the 14th of July, 1776. New Hampshire's provisional 
government, instituted in the winter of 1775-1776, was to 
last only " during the present unhappy and unnatural con- 
test with Great Britain." In 1784 she framed her regular 
constitution, with its opening bill of rights. Massachusetts, 
as Bancroft admits, framed her bill of rights on that of 
Virginia, and her constitution was not written until 1779. 

The adoption of the new seal of the commonwealth was 
the last act of the Convention of 1776. The design was 
reported by George Mason, and there is every reason to 
believe that he was its author. The committee appointed 
to prepare a seal consisted of Richard Henry Lee, who was, 
however, not in the Convention, George Mason, Robert 
Carter Nicholas, and George Wythe. George Wythe and 
John Page were appointed to superintend the engraving of 
the seal, which was found not practicable in this country, and 
the commission was put into the hands of Arthur Lee, then 
living in Paris. In Girardin's continuation of Burk's " His- 
tory of Virginia," written under Jefferson's supervision, it is 
said that Wythe proposed the seal that was adopted by the 
Convention. But Girardin gives no authority for this state- 
ment. And as George Mason was practically the chairman 


of the committee on the seal, and reported it to the Conven- 
tion, the conclusion that he designed it is irresistible. He 
must have penned the words that describe the seal, in that 
case, and they arc remarkable for clearness and precision : 

** Virtus, the genius of the commonwealth, dressed like an 
Amazon^ resting on a spear with one hand, and holding a sword 
in the other, and treading on Tyranny, represented by a man 
prostrate, a crown fallen from his head, a broken chain in his 
left hand, and a scourge in his right. In the exergon, the word 
Virginia over the head of Virtus ; and underneath the words 
Sic Semper Tyrannis, On the reverse a group, Libertas, with 
her wand and pileus. On one side of her Ceres, with the cornu" 
copia in one hand, and an ear of wheat in the other. On the 
other side -^ternitas, with the globe and phoenix. In the exer- 
gon these words : Deus nobis HiEC otia fecit.' 


Grigsby seems to assume that George Mason designed the 
Virginia seal'; and this is taken for granted by the late 
Colonel Sherwin McRae in his pamphlet on the history of 
the seal prepared at the time it was restored by the State 
of Virginia in 1884. The description of it he regards as 
"one of the most remarkable specimens of precision in 
expression to be found in any language, and showing un- 
mistakably that its paternity is the same as that of the cele- 
brated declaration of rights." It is claimed by Colonel 
McRae, who gave much study to the subject, that no other 
American State has a seal equal to that of Virginia in classic 
beauty and appropriateness. And the fact that it was de- 
scribed so carefully at the beginning has been of infinite 
importance in securing its exact reproduction at the present 
time. New York having no description of her seal, a new 
one has been formed recently from the designs of three 
different seals formerly used by her. The seal of a State, as 
Colonel McRae declares, " is not a bauble, but an important 
and necessary element of government ; indeed the Conven- 
tion of 1776 was so impressed with this truth that the great 

' ••Virginia Convention of 1776," p. 167. 


seal was made a specific constitutiottal provision," And in 
summing up George Mason's work in the Vii^inia Conven- 
tion, the preparation or designing of the State seal is seen 
to be the third and concluding portion of his notable achieve- 
ment. "The great seal of Virginia," says the writer above 
quoted, "is an essential part of George Mason's plan of 
govenunent. The first is his declaration of rights, then the 
constitution, and then the great seal — a Corinthian column 
with its base, shaft, and capital. To Mason belongs the 
enviable distinction of conceiving and composing the three 
parts of the plan of government." ' 

I Report on th« Stet« SmI, Houbo Document, No, xi.; also "New England 
Hbtorical Rcgittet," vol. xxvi. 



The American States were now fully embarked on their 
career of independent political life. The Articles of Con- 
federation, reported in Congress eight days after the 
Declaration of Independence, were not ratified, however, 
until 1778, and then only by ten States. But the bond 
between the colonies, formed in May, 1 775, by which they had 
established a union for their mutual defence, sufficed at this 
time for all practical purposes. The military outlook in the 
fall of this memorable year of independence was not an en- 
couraging one, Washington, obliged to evacuate New York, 
retreated through the Jerseys in the face of the enemy's 
superior numbers, and repeated disasters marked the record 
of the patriot army. Considerable alarm was felt through* 
out the country, an alarm shared by the Virginia Assembly 
then in session. This, the first republican Assembly of Vir- 
ginia, met at Williamsburg on the 7th of October. George 
Mason was one of the members, and, in fact, the legislature 
was the same body as the Convention of the preceding spring. 
Geot^ Mason did not take his seat immediately, and ten 
days after the Assembly opened he was writing to the Presi- 
dent of Congress as chairman of the Fairfax Committee, 
enclosing a resolution of the Council of Vii^nia, In refer- 
ence to the defences of Alexandria: 

ViRotHiA, Fautax Co., Oct. 17, 1776. 
Sir : At the request of the inhabitants of the town of Alex- 
andria, I take the liberty to trouble you with the enclosed order 


of the Virginia Council, understanding that Messrs. Hughes of 
Frederick County, Maryland (who are the only persons in this 
part of the continent to be depended on for cannon,) are under 
contract with the Congress for all the cannon their works can 
possibly make in a year, and having no other means of carrying 
the above-mentioned order of Council into execution, the inhabi- 
tants of the said town humbly beg leave through you, Sir, to 
represent their case to the honorable the Congress, and pray for 
an order to Messrs. Hughes to furnish them with the cannon 
wanted, out of those engaged for continental service. They are 
unacquainted with the terms of Messrs. Hughes contract, but if 
the price is more than thirty-five pounds, Virginia currency, per 
ton, the rate our Council have prescribed, they will pay the dif- 
ference themselves. If the Congress is pleased to indulge them 
with such an order, the sooner it can be granted the better, as 
the fortifying the said town will be very advantageous to the 
trade of great part of Virginia and Maryland, and give consider- 
able encouragement to foreign adventurers, by affording them 
protection at a good port where they can speedily procure 
cargoes of country produce. 

I beg the favour of an answer as soon as convenience will 
permit; and am, with much respect, sir, your most obedient^ 

humble servant, 

G. Mason, 

Chairman of Fairfax County Committee.' 

While Colonel Mason was thus employed in Fairfax 
County, in endeavoring to procure cannon for Alexandria, 
the business of the Assembly was going forward. The 
attendance of the members, however, not being as full as 
was desirable, a call of the House was made on the 2d of 
November, and George Mason among others ordered to be 
taken into custody by the sergeant-at-arms, as one of the 
absentees. Three days later he was nominated by the 
Senate among the five persons to be balloted for as a 
committee to revise the laws of the commonwealth. On the 
iith, as the quaint record states: "The House being in- 
formed that Mr. George Mason attended in custody of the 

* 5, " American Archives," ii., 1127. 


sergeant-at-arms, and that he had good cause for his absence 
when the House was called over on the 2nd instant/' it was 
ordered '' that he be discharged from custody and admitted 
to his seat in this House, without paying fees." * He was 
immediately placed on the committee which had under its 
consideration the disputed boundary between Virginia and 
Pennsylvania ; and also on the committee appointed to 
bring in a bill establishing courts of justice. A petition was 
soon after laid before the House from a certain William 
Savage, owner of the ** brigantine Success^' asking redress 
for the imprisonment in Quantico Creek of all of his sails, 
seized for the use of the county, by " Foushee Tebbs, 
gentleman, by order of Col. George Mason.'' * The inhabi- 
tants of Alexandria sent up a petition, about this time, 
setting forth their defenceless condition and asking for 
sixteen iron cannon, etc. ; and no doubt Colonel Mason urged 
their suit with due energy, as it was complied with later. 

On the 19th of November important resolutions in regard V 
to religion were passed by the House, and the provision 
for the support of the established clergy was withdrawn, 
though the glebe lands, churches, and plate, with all arrears 
of money and tobacco, were secured to the parishes and their 
incumbents. George Mason was placed first on the com- 
mittee of seventeen to whom the work was entrusted of 
preparing bills in accordance with these resolutions, and, as 
has been said, drafted the bills. Madison, Jefferson, and 
Henry were named immediately after him. Many church- 
men, like Edmund Pendleton and others, opposed these 
measures, but the majority were in favor of them. Thus, in 
the words of Edmund Randolph, did the friends of the 
church, in the interests of liberty, " cast the establishment 
at the feet of its enemies." Colonel Mason on the following 
day was appointed one of a committee of six who were to 
prepare bills for raising troops, erecting forts, building 
galleys, and taking other measures for the defence of the 
commonwealth. Peyton Randolph, President of Congress, 

* Journml of the Assembly. * Ihid, 


dying suddenly at this time in Philadelphia, his remains 
were brought to Williamsburg to be interred, and the 
Assembly adjourned to attend the funeral on the 26th of 
November. Other bills which Colonel Mason drew up, 
either wholly or in part, were those to encourage the making 
hemp, woollen, linen, and other manufactures; to restrain 
the operation of the acts for limitation of actions and record- 
ing deeds; for the trial of offences committed out of the 
commonwealth, and to suspend executions for debt. Colonel 
Mason was also on a committee to prepare a bill for pre- 
venting the engrossing of salt, a precious commodity at this 
time throughout the colony. The bill declaring what shall 
be treason was soon after under discussion, and a conference 
on the subject took place between the House and the Senate. 
Colonel Mason was one of the number appointed by the 
House to meet the Senate committee, an amendment having 
been proposed by the Senate to which the House did not 
c^ee. On the 17th of December Colonel Mason reported 
from the committee on the disputed boundary between 
Virinia and Pennsylvania certain resolutions, of which the 
first and second were in these words : 

'' I. Resolved^ That it is the mutual interest of the common- 
wealth of Virginia and Pennsylvania, that the boundaries between 
them be speedily settled and ascertained, in the most amicable 
and indisputable manner, by the joint agreement and concurrence 
of both ; but that this desirable end being unattainable by diffi- 
dence or reserve, your committee are concerned to find that the 
committee of the Pennsylvania Convention have confined them- 
selves to general observations on the cession and release made 
by the Commonwealth of Virginia, without attempting to show 
that the temporary boundary proposed was really inconsistent 
with the same, or offering anything with certainty on the part of 
Pennsylvania in its stead, until the true limits of their charter 
could be authentically ascertained and settled. 

" 2. Resolved^ That as the boundaries expressed in the Penn- 
sylvania charter may admit of great doubt, and variety of opinions 
may arise on the construction, and it is expedient and wise to 


remove, as much as possible, all cause of future controversy (the 
great principle upon which the Virginia Convention acted in 
making the aforesaid cession and release), to quiet the minds of 
the people who may be affected thereby, and to take from our 
common enemies an opportunity of fomenting mutual distrust 
and jealousy, this Commonwealth ought to offer such reasonable 
terms of accommodation (even if the loss of some territory is 
incurred thereby) as may be cordially accepted by our sister 
State, and an end put to all future dispute by a firm and 
permanent agreement and settlement." ' 

The third resolution defined the boundary line proposed. 
These resolutions were undoubtedly drafted by Colonel 
Mason, who showed here the wise and magnanimous spirit 
evinced later by him in the advocacy of a still more important 
cession of territory. Saturday, December 2ist, wjs the last 
day of the session, and the House resolved itself into a com- 
mittee on the state of America. Resolutions were passed for 
encouraging the recruiting service, etc. ; and it was declared, 
" that in view of the present imminent danger of America, 
it is become necessary for the preservation of the State that 
the usual forms of government should be suspended during 
a limited time." It was added, however, " that this depart- 
ure from the constitution of government being in this 
instance founded only on most evident and urgent necessity 
ought not hereafter to be drawn into precedent." • The 
Senate amended the resolution by the substitution of the 
words, "that additional powers be given to the governor 
and council for a limited time," for the phrase, " that the 
usual powers of government should be suspended," etc. 
Colonel Mason carried these resolutions to the Senate, and he' 
was, in all probability, their author. It is said that he 
declared in the Assembly, in regard to the executive, that 
" it might be necessary to g^ve unlimited power for a limited 
time." ■ These resolves, which were to be transmitted to 
Congress and to the States of Maryland and North Carolina, 
show how grave the military situation seemed to the 

« Ihid. • md, » Tucker's *• Jefferson." vol. i.. p. 150. 


Virginia legislators at this crisis. They gave rise to the 
story, first told by Jefferson, who had left the Assembly in 
November, that Virginia designed to appoint a dictator, in 
the person of the governor, Patrick Henry. But, as Pro- 
fesssor Tyler points out, the resolution was not to give 
" unlimited " power but " extraordinary " power,' and a 
dictatorship in any serious sense could never have been 
intended. Certainly George Mason would be the last person 
to contemplate such a project. 

The biographers of Jefferson, having his recollections of 
the Assembly before them, in which naturally his own 
part in it is chiefly dwelt on, have uniformly ascribed to 
him the leading part in its deliberations. In this respect 
justice has not been done to George Mason. His life never 
having been written, his papers having been lost and scat- 
tered, this is, perhaps, not to be wondered at. This ardent 
and efficient lawmaker and statesman, with his strenuous 
personality and his exalted patriotism, whose work and 
character impressed themselves so forcibly upon his own 
time, by a strange fatality passed away leaving no provision, 
apparently, for the establishment of his fame in the eyes of 
posterity. No recollections, no Ana of his are to be found 
with which to reinforce contemporary record and transmitted 
tradition. And so it has come to pass that his services in 
many instances have been wellnigh obscured, and the award 
that is due him has been given to others. The latest of Jef- 
ferson's many biographers, therefore, only more fully accen- 
tuates this injustice, when he says of the Assembly of 1776 
and its work : " George Mason, George Wythe, and Madison 
'. . . were efficient coadjutors and lieutenants only. Jeffer- 
son was the principal and the leader." • The word " coadjutor " 
is Jefferson's, and is used by him in his flne tribute to Mason, 
where he speaks of him as his colleague in the Assembly from 
1776 to I1779, when Jefferson left the legislature to become 
governor : " I had many occasional and strenuous coadjutors 

• *• Life of Patrick Henry," pp. 197-203. 

' " Life of Jefferson." Morse. American Statesmen Series. 


in debate," he writes, " and one most steadfast, able, and 
zealous, who was himself a host. This was George Mason, 
a man of the first order of wisdom among those who acted 
on the theatre of the Revolution, of expansive mind, pro- 
found judgment, cogent in argument, learned in the lore of 
our former constitution, and earnest for the republican change 
on democratic principles. His elocution was neither flowing 
nor smooth, but his language was strong, his manner most 
impressive, and strengthened by a dash of biting cynicism 
when provocation made it seasonable." * 

Is it likely that this man of mature years and ripe abili- 
ties, who was indeed a host in himself, and so acknowledged 
to be by those with whom he was associated, had, in the 
space of six months, sunk from his established leadership in 
the Virginia Convention, as the architect and builder of the 
new government, to the position of Jefferson's lieutenant 
in the Assembly that followed ? Jefferson was many years 
his junior, and certainly not at this time Mason's equal 
in the experience of political life, or in the essential at- 
tributes of true statesmanship. Jefferson's comment in 1825 
on the newly published life of Richard Henry Lee, given 
in a letter to one of this same band of Revolutionary 
worthies, may be cited here in this connection ; " I am not 
certain whether the friends of George Mason, of Patrick 
Henry, yourself, and even of General Washington, may 
not reclaim some of the feathers of the plumage given 
him, noble as was his proper and original coat." * The 
friends of George Mason would reclaim some of the feathers 
from the plumage given to Jefferson, and place them where 
they properly belong. 

Tucker gives to Jefferson the whole responsibility and 
credit of the bill for establishing courts of justice, which 
he brought in three days after he had taken his seat. At 
this time George Mason was not in the Assembly, but as 
soon as he arrived he was placed on the committee which 
had the bill in hand, and, doubtless, he gave it due attention. 

* Jederson'f " Works," vol. i., p. 40. • Ibid., vol. vii., p. 422. 



The laws in relation to landed property, and respecting re- 
ligion, were the two measures, however, of radical importance, 
in reference to which it is claimed that Jefferson took the 
lead.* A month before George Mason took his seat in the 
Assembly, on the 12th of October, Jefferson brought in a bill 
for the abolishment of entails. And if up to Mason's arrival 
Jefferson seemed to have taken the initiative in these reforms, 
as soon as the elder statesman made his appearance he stepped 
easily to the front. George Mason was, no doubt, the author 
of the act exempting dissenters from contributing to the 
support of the established church, an act which Jefferson 
says, passed only after desperate contests in the committee 
of the whole house in which Edmund Pendleton and Robert 
Carter Nicholas led the opposition. Placed on the com- 
mittee for revising the laws, George Mason's influence was a 
controlling one here also. 

The change made in the Virginia statute of descents, it has 
been asserted, did not meet with his approval. John Randolph 
of Roanoke, the brillant apostle in the succeeding generation 
of Mason's cardinal political doctrines, who had seen, as he 
believed, the ill effects on Virginia society of this democratic 
law of inheritance, once declared : " Well might old George 
Mason exclaim that the authors of that law never had a son." * 
But it will be seen that George Mason was, in effect, one of 
" the authors of that law." Jefferson's account of the pre- 
liminary work of the committee which met in Fredericks- 
burg January 13, 1777, leaves the matter in no doubt. He 
says that upon the question whether they should *' abolish 
the whole existing system of laws and prepare a new 
and complete institute, or preserve the general system and 
only modify it to the present state of things," Pendleton 
favored the less conservative course and Lee agreed with 
him. This, it will be remembered, was Thomas Ludwell 
Lee. Wythe, George Mason, and Jefferson, however, advo- 
cated the more practical plan of simply making suitable 

• *• Life of Jefferson/' vol. i., p. 92. 

• Garland's ** Life of Randolph," vol. i.. p. 19. 


alterations in the existing laws. " When we proceeded to 
the distribution of the work," adds JefTerson, " Mr. Mason 
excused himself as being no lawyer, he felt himself unqual- 
ified for the work, and he resigned soon after." Lee 
resigned also, for the same reason, and his death occurred a 
year later. "The other two gentlemen [Pendleton and 
Wythe] and myself," Jefferson continues, "divided the 
work among us." The common law was assigned to Jeffer- 
son, and he says : 

" As the law of Descents and the Criminal Law fell, of course^ 
within my portion, I wished the committee to settle the leading 
principles of these, as a guide for me in framing them, and with 
respect to the first, I proposed to abolish the law of primogeni- 
ture, and to make real estate descendible in parcenary to the 
next of kin, as personal property is by the statute of distribution. 
Mr. Pendleton wished to preserve the right of primogeniture, 
but seeing at once that that could not prevail, he. proposed we 
should adopt the Hebrew principle, and give a double portion to 
the elder son. I observed, that if the elder son could eat twice 
as much, or do double work, it might be a natural evidence of his 
right to a double portion, but being on a par in his powers and 
wants, with his brothers, he should be on a par also in the parti- 
tion of the patrimony, and such was the decision of the other 

He goes on to speak of other points which were settled, 
and concludes that then " we repaired to our respective homes 
for the preparation of the work." ' The plural pronoun here 
includes not merely Wythe and Pendleton, but Lee and 
Mason. And Jefferson and Wythe, in their letter to the 
Assembly of June, 1779, referring to the later resignation of 
George Mason and the death of Thomas Ludwell Lee, assert 
that " the plan of the work had been settled, and agreeable to 
that plan it was in a considerable degree carried into execu- 
tion before that loss." ' 

* Randolph's *' Jefferson/* p. 35. 

• Hening*s ** SUtutes," vol. ix. 


Among the few papers of George Mason that yet remain 
to us, is one drawn up by him at this period, and endorsed 
by him as the " Plan settled by the committee of Revisors, 
in Fredericksburg, January, 1777." It opens in the follow- 
ing manner : 

" (i.) The common law not to be meddled with, except where 
alterations are necessary. The statutes to be revised and di- 
gested, alterations proper for us to be made ; the diction where 
obsolete or redundant, to be reformed ; but otherwise to undergo 
as few changes as possible. The acts of the English Common- 
wealth to be examined. The statutes to be divided into periods ; 
the acts of Assembly made on the same subject to be incorpo- 
rated into them. The laws of the other colonies to be examined, 
and any good ones to be adopted." 

In the margin here is written : 

'* General rules in drawing. Provisions &c., which would do 
only what the law would do without them, to be omitted. Bills 
to be short ; not to include matters of different natures ; not to 
insert an unnecessary word ; nor omit a useful one. Laws to 
be made on the spur of the present occasion, and all innovating 
laws to be limited in their duration." 

Then the criminal law is outlined, and after this the law of 
descents. " The lands to which an intestate had title in fee 
to descend in parcenary, to males and females, in equal por- 
tions," and giving the course of descent. The headings 
in the margin indicate the text that follows. These are: 
" Dower, Distribution of personal estate. Executions, Debt, 
Sureties, Land law. New grants and Real actions." The 
paper concludes thus : 

" The first period in the division of the statutes to end with 
2Sth H., 8th. The second to end at the Revolution. The third 
to come down to the present day. A fourth part to consist of 
the residuary part of the Virginia laws, not taken up in either 
of the three first parts ; to which is added the criminal law and 
land law. The fifth part to be the regulation of property in slaves. 


and their condition ; and also the examination of the laws of the 
other colonies." 

'' Alotment of the parts to each member : 

" T. Jefferson to undertake the first part with the law of 

" E. Pendleton the second, 

" G. Wythe the third, 

" G. Mason the fourth ; but if he finds it too much the other 
gentlemen will take off his hands any part he pleases. 

" T. Lee the fifth part." ' 

It is evident from this paper that George Mason had no 
small share in sketching the plan of revision. And as 
Jefferson expressly says that, " agreeable to that plan it was 
in a considerable degree carried into execution," before 
Mason's resignation, we may conclude that the code bears 
in some places the marks of his workmanship. To George 
Mason had been allotted the fourth part in the division of 
labor among the five members; and this included "the 
residuary part of the Virginia laws, not taken up in either of 
the three first parts ; to which is added the criminal law and 
land law." Jefferson in his " Notes on Virginia," written in 
1 78 1, says of the revision of the laws, that the common law 
of England was made the basis of the work, that it was 
necessary to make alterations in that ; and while the British 
statutes and Virginia Acts of Assembly were retained, they 
were digested into one hundred and twenty-six new acts, 
" in which simplicity of style was aimed at, as far as was 
safe." Among alterations proposed, he mentions, "to 
establish religious freedom on the broadest bottom." An- 
other object of the revisal was to diffuse knowledge more 
generally through the mass of the people ; and bills for this 
purpose were brought forward. It was proposed to lay off 
every county into small districts of five or six miles square^ 
called hundreds, each to have a school for reading, writing, 
and arithmetic, the tuition free for the first three years. 
There were to be twenty grammar schools ; and, lastly, a 

' Mason Papers. 



public library and picture gallery founded. Both religious 
liberty and the cause of education found a champion in 
George Mason, as will be manifest in the consideration of 
his public life. His views on the subject of primogeniture 
and the law of descents were afHrmed in the most practical 
manner by the provision in his will, drawn up three years 
before he was called upon to give them expression in the 
revision of the laws. After providing in turn for each one 
of his sons, he adds : 

" And least the manner in which I have limited and directed 
the descent of some of my land should occasion any dispute or 
induce an opinion that I intended to entail them, I hereby declare 
that it is not my intention to entail any part of my estate upon 
any of my children, but to give all and each of my sons when 
they respectively come of age or marry, an absolute fee simple 
estate in all the lands respectively devised them, and in all such 
lands also as any of them may happen to take by the death of 
any of their brothers, the common legal descent of some of my 
lands being hereinbefore altered only in case any of my sons to 
whom such lands are respectively devised should die under age 
and unmarried while their lands remained in the common stock of 
my estate and had not yet come into their actual possession." 

The winter of 1776-77 was brightened at length by the 
victories of Trenton in December, and Princeton in January, 
which sent a new impulse through the veins of the dis- 
heartened Confederacy. Francis Lightfoot Lee wrote to a 
friend in Virginia, on the 3d of February, from Baltimore, 
where Congress was then sitting, having left Philadelphia 
in alarm when the British crossed the Delaware in Decem- 
ber, and he refers to " the change of our affairs, which I hope 
will something forward the recruiting business." He thinks 
that '' bad management has had a greater share in our bad 
success than fortune, but is it to be wondered at ; plunged at 
once into an immense system, without anybody possessed of 
the knowledge requisite for the proper conducting the differ- 
ent departments which other nations have acquired by the 


experience of ages ; continually pressed by a powerful enemy, 
so that the present emergency necessarily engrossed all our 
attention ; every necessary for a large army immediately to 
be procured in a country which had depended for almost every- 
thing on foreigners ; a number of internal enemies exerting all 
their faculties to frustrate our endeavours. All things con- 
sidered, the wonder, I think, is, that we have succeeded so 
well.** He writes of military affairs, that there are "fre- 
quent skirmishes, which for the most part are in our favor. 
Indeed it is pretty certain the enemy's army is mouldering 
fast with sickness, desertion, and captures, which will prevent 
their attempting anything of consequence till reinforced, if 

General W can keep enough of the militia together till 

part of the new army is raised. Our general through the 
whole campaign has shown himself vastly superior in abilities 
to the enemy; and I am convinced if he now had 8000 
regulars Howe would soon have reason to wish himself at 
Halifax.** ' 

A month later George Mason wrote to Richard Henry Lee, 
answering a letter from him of the 12th of February, and 
alluding to some injurious report, that had been circulated 
affecting his friend's reputation, which Colonel Mason took 
upon himself to pronounce ** an infamous falsehood." This 
was, in all probability, the beginning of the trouble which 
lost Lee his seat in Congress, though he was soon after 
triumphantly vindicated. 

GuNSTON Hall, March 4, 1777. 
Dear Sir : 

I never heard a word of the report you mention until the day 
before I received your favor of the twelfth ultimo, when, hearing 
it accidentally from a second or third hand, I took upon me 
immediately to contradict it ; and thought I had good authority 
from the letters I saw, during the sitting of the Assembly, from 
you and your brother. Col. F. Lee, mentioning the retreat through 
the Jerseys, to affirm that it was an infamous falsehood. I be- 

1 MS. Letter. 


lieve it has gained no manner of credit, and don't think it is 
worth giving you a moment's uneasiness. 

The gallies now building I hope will be able to afford sufficient 
protection to our bay. I am sure there are as many as can 
possibly be built and manned before the meeting of the 
Assembly. I should be glad to be informed if the Governor and 
Council have proposed to the Congress to furnish them out small 
gallies, in lieu of those they ordered to be built here, for the pro- 
tection and transportation of their troops over our rivers ; and 
the result. 

We have a very extraordinary piece of intelligence (I suppose 
it is a Tory invention to delay the raising of our army) in God- 
hart's Baltimore paper of the 25th of February. If there is any 
truth in it, the British ministry must be hard pushed, and see 
that a French war is inevitable. Surely Congress will be cautious 
how they are drawn into a fruitless negotiation, or commit any 
breach of faith with foreign nations. They best know the 
powers and instructions given Dr. Franklin. At any rate, let 
us do nothing to cramp our exports to any part of the world. 
They are the only means by which we can expect to discharge 
the enormous debt this war has created. I really think such a 
publication ought not to have been suffered, and that the author 
should be inquired after. 

I beg to be kindly remembered to your brother. Col. F. Lee> 
and Mr. Page, and am, dear sir, 

Your affectionate friend and servant, 

G. Mason.* 

Colonel Mason wrote to Patrick Henry in April on affairs 
of the commonwealth : 

GuNSTON Hall, April 6, 1777. 

Sir : y 

The "Express who went from hence last (Mr. Chew), not being 
yet returned, and therefore not knowing what orders are given 
about boarding the vessels at Alexandria upon Continental 
account, I enclose you the three letters brought by the last three 
vessels, together with one from Mr. Mier to me, mentioning the 

* Lee Papers, University of Virginia. A small part of this letter appeared 
in the Soutkern Literary Messenger ^ October, 1858. 


state of that business, and the quantity of flour required for the 
vessels already arrived. The whole towns of Dumfries and 
Alexandria are under inoculation for the small-pox, — in the 
latter about six hundred persons, which I fear will prevent the 
flour waggons coming in. 

Xl should be glad to know how the sail-cloth manufactory goes 
on ; and whether Mr. Matthews has got any person acquainted 
with the new machines, introduced a few years ago from Russia, 
for spinning the thread, which it is said perform the work better 
and vastly more expeditiously than common wheels. My reason 
for this inquiry is that I think I can engage a workman, who 
served an apprenticeship in one of the great sail-cloth manufac- 
tories at Hull, and is master of every part of the business, from 
breaking the hemp to finishing the sail-cloth. He is also 
acquainted with the use of the clasp-harness and the before- 
mentioned machines, which by his account are simple and ex- 
tremely advantageous, and thinks he can instruct a workman to 
make them. He served his time with a friend of mine in Mary- 
land, who gives him a good character for honesty and diligence ; 
but knows nothing of his proficiency in his trade further than his 
being a complete hemp and flax dresser. ^)^pon his coming over 
here to enter on board a privateer at Alexandria, I stopped him ; 
and thinking a man so useful to the public ought not to be lost, 
I prevailed on him, by promising him good wages, and making 
him hope for some further reward, in case his machines answered, 
to lay aside his privateering scheme for the present, and keep 
himself unengaged till I could lay this information before the 

There are in this county two young Scotch gentlemen, 
Laughlan McLean and Adam McGlashan, in the list of those 
ordered by the court to depart the commonwealth. Having 
engaged their passage in the ship Allison^ and advanced (as was 
required) half their passage-money, they imagined their names 
were, of course, inserted in the list of those who intended to go 
out in the same ship, and have petitioned for further time. But 
since they have seen the late proclamation, they are very uneasy 
least, through any mistake or omission, they may be thought to 
have neglected the proper requisites, and subject themselves to 
confinement, which might be fatal to one of them who is in a 


bad state of health ; and have therefore desired me to apply to 
your Excellency and the board on their behalf ; and if they are 
not already included in the indulgence granted to the rest of the 
ship AllisotCs passengers, to pray the favor of being indulged 
with such further time as may be necessary until the said ship is 
ready to sail. These young men have been my neighbors a con- 
siderable time ; and I know their conduct has been so inoffensive 
and unexceptionable, that, had they called upon some witnesses 
in this neighborhood of undoubted credit, I think they would 
have avoided the judgment which hath been passed upon them ; 
otherwise I should not take the liberty to trouble the board in 
their favor. 

I am, very respectfully, sir, 

Your most obedient servant, 

G. Mason. 
To His Excellency, 

Patrick Henry, Esq., 

Governor of Virginia.* 

The spring session of the Assembly opened on the 5th of 
May. Thomson Mason was in the House during this ses- 
sion, but George Mason was prevented, by the effects of 
inoculation, from attending. On the 22d of May George 
Mason was elected to represent the State in the general 
Congress, to fill out the term of Thomas Nelson, who had 
resigned on account of his health. Mason received eighty- 
one votes on the ballot, and Joseph Jones twenty-six.' At 
the same time the five members for the year beginning on 
the nth of the following August were balloted for, which 
resulted in the election of Benjamin Harrison, George 
Mason, Joseph Jones, Francis Lightfoot Lee, and John 
Harvie. Richard Henry Lee was rejected on each of the 
five ballots, and as he was already in Congress, it was of 
course a marked slight, and intentionally inflicted. George 
Mason sent in the following letter of resignation, which was 
received in the House on the 19th of June : 

» MS. Letter, owned by WiUiam Wirt Henry. Esq. 
* Journal of the Assembly. 


GUNSTON Hall, June 14th, 1777. 


I hoped to have attended my duty in the House before this 
time, or I should not so long have delayed writing on the subject 
with which I now take the liberty to trouble you ; but though 1 
am otherwise thoroughly recovered from the small pox, my arm 
which has been so much ulcerated where the inoculation was 
made, still continues so bad, that my being able to attend this 
session remains doubtful. I must therefore entreat the favor of 
you sir, to return my thanks to the Assembly for the honor they 
have been pleased to do me, in appointing me one of their dele- 
gates to Congress, and at the same time to inform them that I 
cannot by any means accept the appointment. My own domes- 
tic affairs are so circumstanced as not to admit of my continued 
absence from home, where a numerous family of children calls 
for my constant attention ; nor do I think I have a right to 
vacate my seat in the house of delegates, without the consent of 
my constituents ; and such of them as I have had the oppor- 
tunity of consulting are averse to it. Was this not the case, I 
must acknowledge I have other reasons for declining the appoint- 
ment ; which to avoid offence, I forbear giving. 

I beg you will excuse this trouble, and believe me, with the 

greatest respect. 

Sir, your most obd't Serv't. 

G. Mason. 
Hon. George Wythe, Esq., ) 

Speaker of the House of Delegates. * ) 

On the following day, the 20th of June, Richard Henry 
Lee took his seat in the Assembly, and called for an inquiry 
into the charges made against him, with the result of an 
acquittal, and a vote of thanks from the House, and on the 
24th he was elected to Congress in place of George Mason. 
For reasons not very clearly made out, there was a cabal 
against Richard Henry Lee at this time. His patriotism 
had been called in question, and his political rectitude by a 
certain set inimical to him, but the accusations seem to have 
been false and frivolous. Colonel Bannister wrote from 

' MS. Letter, State Library. Richmond. 


Williamsburg after Lee had made his defence, giving an 
account of the affair to Thcodorick Bland. Bannister, 
while professing not to be an ally of Richard Henry Lee^ 
pronounced the action of the Assembly in superseding him, 
in his absence, without a hearing, '' a most flagrant act of 
injustice." After detailing the charges and leaving it to 
Bland to form his own judgment, Colonel Bannister adds: 

" But if they were right in that, what will you say to their con- 
sistency and uniformity of opinion, when I tell you, that the very 
body of men who but a few days before had disgraced, have re- 
turned him the thanks of their house ? Certainly no defence was 
ever made with more graceful eloquence, more manly firmness, 
equalness of temper, serenity, calmness and judgment, than this 
very accomplished speaker displayed on this occasion, and I am 
now of opinion he will be re-elected to his former station, instead 
of Mr. George Mason, who has resigned." * 

True to his uniformly expressed resolve, not to serve in 
Congress, George Mason had resigned both the positions 
to which he had been elected to fill out an unexpired term, 
and to become one of the delegation for the following year. 
His preference for private life was sincere and deep-seated ; 
he felt the obligation at this time not to separate himself 
too far from his motherless children ; and he was apparently 
superior to the ordinary ambition which would covet politi- 
cal honors for their own sake. To serve Virginia in her 
legislative assemblies seemed to him his highest duty. And 
only once was he led into a wider field of action, when in 
1787 he came forward in a federal council, at a serious 
crisis, as Virginia's representative. But apart from his gen- 
eral resolves and predilections, George Mason, on this occa- 
sion, evidently felt that an injury had been inflicted on his 
personal friend, Richard Henry Lee, and that in taking the 
honor it was proposed to confer upon him, he would be 
superseding Lee. In his life of Jefferson, Randall assumes 
that had the former been present in the Assembly at the 

» '* The Bland Papers/' vol. i., p. 57. 


time of the election, the enemies of Lee would not have 
triumphed. Jefferson had left Williamsburg on the 20th of 
May, two days before the ballot took place. It seems Lee 
wrote to Jefferson for the testimony of the latter in his 
behalf, and it is quite likely he wrote to George Mason and 
other friends at the same time. But whatever may have 
been the effect of Jefferson's influence in producing the 
reaction in favor of Lee, certain it is that George Mason 
would need no stimulus from Jefferson to urge him to 
exertion in behalf of Richard Henry Lee, with whom he 
was much more intimately associated than with Jefferson, 
and for whose character and abilities he had always the 
highest regard. Randall writes : " George Mason wore no 
man's colors, but he generally acted closely with Jefferson, 
His sympathies were obviously all on Lee's side. Unless 
Mr. Jefferson's friends had supported Lee on the twenty- 
fourth of June he could have obtained nothing like such a 
vote."* Jefferson is here again made to pose as leader 
with his '' friends, " lieutenants, and coadjutors, rallying at 
the word of their chief to the defence of Richard Henry Lee. 

Tracing briefly the progress of the war at this time we 
find in July, 1777, the capture of Ticonderoga by Burgoyne, 
making a note of discouragement in the summer's record. 
Two months later, in September, the British fleet under 
Howe landed in the Chesapeake Bay, despite the defences 
of which George Mason wrote. The enemy then marched to 
Philadelphia, and Washington sustained a defeat at the bat- 
tle of Brandywine. With Philadelphia in the hands of the 
British and the fugitive Congress at Yorktown, Pennsylvania, 
the prospect was indeed a gloomy one. But the dark cloud 
was soon to turn to the Americans its silver lining, and the 
surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga in October was felt to 
be a success amply compensating for the previous disasters. 

The Virginia Assembly met in Williamsburg on the 20th 
of October and both George and Thomson Mason attended 
its session. It was not, however, until the 14th of No- 

* ** Life of Jcflfcrson." vol. i., p. aio. 


vember that the former took his seat. Washington evi- 
dently regarded George Mason's presence there as of the 
utmost importance, and looked to him to take the initiative 
in certain financial reforms, while the necessary legislation in 
regard to Virginia's military establishment was also in his 
hands. In a letter to John Parke Custis, written on the 
14th of November, from his camp near Philadelphia, Wash- 
ington says : 

'* It is much to be wished that a remedy could be applied to the 
depreciation of our currency. I know of no person better quali- 
fied to do this than Col. Mason, and shall be very happy to 
hear that he has taken it in hand. Long have I been persuaded 
of the indispensable necessity of a tax for the purpose of sinking 
the paper money, and why it has been delayed better politicians 
than I must account for. What plan Col. Mason may have 
in contemplation for filling up the Virginia regiments I know 
not, but certain I am that this is a measure that cannot be dis- 
pensed with, nor ought not under any pretext whatsoever. I 
hope Colonel Mason's health will admit his attendance on the 
Assembly, and no other plea should be offered, much less re- 
ceived by his constituents. " * 

Mann Page wrote from " Mansfield" to Richard Henry 
Lee about two weeks before the date of Washington's letter, 
and reports, probably having heard it from one of his corre- 
spondents in Williamsburg, that " Colonel Mason has not yet 
gone down ; he is busy, I am told, in preparing a bill for a 
general assessment and a militia bill. " ' On the 14th of 
November the House was informed that Mr. George Mason 
was present, and that he had good cause for his absence 
when the House was called over. He took his seat therefore 
without paying costs, and was immediately put on the Com- 
mittees of Privileges and Elections and Propositions and 
Grievances. The next day he was made Chairman of a com- 
mittee of ^ix which included Nelson and Jefferson, to whom 

' '* RecoUections of Washington," W. P. Custis, Appendix, p. 546. 
' " Life of Richard Henry Lee/' vol. ii., p. 204. 

THE SESSION OF 1 777-/8. 287 

was referred the petition of a certain Abraham Van bibber, 
who had been providing stores from Holland for the States 
of Virginia and Maryland, and had suffered arrest and im- 
prisonment through the indiscretion, it was alleged, of a Vir- 
ginian, Captain Rallo. Thomson Mason was brought in by 
the sergeant-at-arms ten days later, but it appearing that he 
was employed in the public service when the House was 
called he was discharged also without paying any fine. He 
was put on the committee to report on the state of the 
several public salt works ; and both George and Thomson 
Mason were added to the committee who were preparing the 
bill for establishing a court of appeals. Another bill which 
with Jefferson, Pendleton, and two other members, George 
Mason was to assist in drawing up, was to prevent forestal- 
ling, engrossing, and regrating, or buying up goods to sell 
them again at a higher price. The state of the army chiefly 
occupying the attention of the House at this time, resolutions 
were passed to ascertain if any persons had been forestalling 
the public in the purchase of provisions and other neces- 
saries for the army, and it was proposed to appoint commis- 
sioners to seize stores of clothing for the public service, 
drawing on the treasurer for their value, and charging the 
United States for those used on Continental service. Com- 
mittees were formed for both of these purposes, and George 
Mason was the second person named upon them. It was 
also determined by the House to raise five thousand volun- 
teers for six months to reinforce Washington, and one thou- 
sand tents were to be provided. Geoi^e Mason, Pendleton, 
Jefferson, and others, were appointed to bring in the neces- 
sary bills for these purposes. On the 28th of November 
it was ordered that a bill be brought in to amend the act for 
regulating and disciplining the militia, and that Nelson, 
Jefferson, George Mason, and others were to prepare it 
Doubtless this was the bill upon which Colonel Mason was 
engaged in October. 

The same committee were to prepare a bill providing 
against invasions and insurrections. The bill for raising a 


number of volunteers to reinforce the army was presented 
to the House by Colonel Mason on this same day. Some 
days later the House passed ten more resolutions in regard 
to the army, for the equipment and regulation of the troops 
to be raised, and George Mason was also placed on the 
committee named here to bring in the necessary bills. A 
committee was appointed to examine the report of the 
commissioners to whom had been referred the losses sus- 
tained by the people of Norfolk, and George Mason was 
one of their number. He was also placed on the commit- 
tee to examine into the state of the navy. On the lotli of 
December the Assembly passed a resolution to empower 
the governor to order out such part of the militia as might 
be deemed necessary. They also desired that commissioners 
be appointed by Congress to repair to Fort Pitt to investi- 
gate the disaffection there, and George Mason was named 
second on a committee to bring in bills for these purposes. 
On the same day George Mason, Thomas Ludwell Lee, and 
James Henry were appointed commissioners to meet com- 
missioners to be appointed by the State of Maryland " to 
consider of the most proper means to adjust and confirm 
the rights of each, to the use and navigation of and jurisdic- 
tion over the Bay of Chesapeake, and the rivers Potomac 
and Pocomoke."* The House, on the 13th of this month, 
proposed nineteen resolutions in regard to articles to be 
taxed, in order to provide for the public needs ; all of these 
were agreed to except the tax on dogs. General Nelson, 
George Mason, with Pendleton, Nicholas, Jefferson, and 
others formed the committee to bring in the required bills. 
It would seem that George Mason had been at work also on 
this measure before coming to the Assembly. 

On the 27th of December George Mason and Thomas 
Jefferson were appointed to prepare a bill " for enabling the 
public contractors to procure stores of provisions necessary for 
the ensuing campaign, and for defeating the evil intentions of 
those who have endeavored to prevent the public therein " • ; 

* Journal of the Assembly. ^IHd, 


and this bill was presented to the House by George Mason 
two days later. A bill to regulate the inoculation for the 
smallpox within the State of Virginia was given to George 
Mason and others to prepare. On the 5th of January 
George Mason, Edmund Pendleton, with other members, 
were appointed to prepare a bill to prohibit the exportation 
of beef, pork, and bacon for a limited time. On the same 
day Colonel Mason was made chairman of a committee for 
adjusting and settling the titles of claimants to unpatented 
lands under the former government ; and three days later 
he presented a bill '' for establishing a land-office, and for 
ascertaining the terms and manner of granting waste and 
unappropriated lands." * The bill for regulating inoculation, 
and the one for adjusting and settling the titles of claimants 
to unpatented lands were presented to the House by George 
Mason on the 12th and 14th of January. Two other bills 
prepared by Colonel Mason about this time were for author- 
izing the seizure of salt, in the same manner as provisions 
for the use of the army; and to prevent private persons 
from issuing bills of credit in the nature of paper money. 
A proposition of Monsieur Loycante for establishing a corps 
of artillery in Virginia was referred to a committee consisting 
of R. H. Lee, Jefferson, George Mason, and others. 

The House before closing its session ordered that a copy of 
the several papers filed in the clerk's office relating to the claim 
of Richard Henderson and Company and of the Indiana Com- 
pany be transmitted to George Ma^on and Thomas Jeffer- 
son. And these two cases came up in later sessions, Colonel 
Mason managing the proceedings for the commonwealth 
against the unlawful pretensions of the land companies. 
Shortly before the House adjourned the balloting took place 
for the five judges of the General Court. Thomson Mason 
was elected one of these judges. Joseph Jones, John Blair, 
Thomas Ludwell Lee, and Paul Carrington were the other 
four. This was the highest criminal court in Virginia, the 
Supreme Court of Appeals having only civil jurisdiction. 
19 » IHd. 


In 1830 the number of judges was increased to twenty. 
The General Court was, however, abolished in 1852. On 
the 22d of January extraordinary powers were again con- 
ferred upon Governor Henry, and two days later the Assem- 
bly adjourned. Quit-rents were abolished by the Virginia 
Assembly at this session, with the one exception of Lord 
Fairfax's in the Northern Neck. He or his agent was 
to transmit to the commissioners of the counties in this 
territory " a rent-roll of all the lands paying quit-rents to 
the said proprietor in such county and receive from the 
treasurer twenty shillings for each rent-roll." * So George 
Mason as a landholder in this portion of the Old Dominion 
was still required to pay quit-rent. 

It was during this winter of 1777-8 that Col. George 
Rogers Clark visited Williamsburg, and in interviews with 
Governor Henry and the leading men of the Assembly, the 
famous Illinois campaign was projected. George Mason 
was an intimate and revered friend of the gallant young 
soldier, and he was one of the leaders with whom Henry 
conferred on the subject of Clark's plans. A letter was 
written by George Wythe, George Mason, and Thomas 
Jefferson, on the 3d of January, 1778, in which these 
gentlemen pledged themselves, in case of the success of 
the expedition, "to exert their influence to obtain from 
the legislature a bounty of three hundred acres of land for 
every person in the expedition." ' The papers of G. R. 
Clark were, in 1834, in possession of his brother. General 
William Clark, and they were used by Mann Butler in his 
history of Kentucky. Copies of some of these papers were 
given by Butler to the Hon. Lyman C. Draper of Wisconsin, 
for his contemplated biography of George Rogers Clark. 
The letter signed by Wythe, Mason, and Jefferson was, 
however, never seen by Mr. Draper, and he supposes it to 
have been used as a basis for the act of the Assembly, set- 
ting apart 150,000 acres of land opposite Louisville, Ken- 
tucky, for Clark's men, and to have been retained in the 

' Ibid, • Butler's ** History of Kentucky," p. 47 (and foot-note.) 


hands of some committeeman who had the matter in charge. 

Search has been made for it unavailingly among the Force 

MSS. in the Congressional Library. 

On his way home from Williamsburg, Colonel Mason 

stopped at Thomas Ludwell Lee*s, " Bellevue," from which 

place he wrote to his cousin, James Mercer, appointing a 

meeting at " Gunston Hall " of these three members of the 

Ohio Company, to confer upon the measures to be taken to 

secure their land. 

Stafford County, Col. Lek*s, 
February 6, 1778. 

Dear Sir : 

I fully intended to have taken Fredericksburg on my way 
from the Assembly and spent an evening with you and my friend 
Mr. Dick, but was disappointed by the accident of my servant's 
falling sick on the road, which detained me four or five days at 
Hubbard's, and obliged me at last, to leave him behind me and 
hire a servant to this place. 

I brought in a bill, this last session, for establishing a land 
office, and ascertaining the terms and manners of granting waste 
and unappropriated lands, to create a sinking fund, in aid of the 
taxes, for discharging the public debt ; and another for adjusting 
and settling the titles of claimers to unpatented land under the 
former government. They are both put off for the present, but 
will undoubtedly be taken up, and I hope finally settled in the 
next session, and as there will only be a short time allowed to the 
previous claimers to put in their respective claims, and sue out 
patents, after which they will be barred, it is incumbent upon 
the members of the Ohio Company to take the proper prepara- 
tory steps for making good their title and obtaining a patent for 
the 200,000 acres actually surveyed, which is all I have any hopes 
of, and that, I think, is upon such a foundation as that nothing 
but our own negligence can deprive us of it. It is an object of 
sufficient importance, I think, to engage our attention, being 
equal, by all accounts of it, to any land on this continent There 
are, however, some very considerable difficulties in putting this 
business into proper train, which I have not room to explain in a 
common letter. Your advice and assistance both as a lawyer and 
a friend, will be much wanted, and I flatter myself if you. Col. 


Thomas Lee and myself could spend two or three days together 
on the subject, we could reduce it to order, and we might then 
call a meeting of the Company which otherwise would answer no 
good end. Col. Lee has promised me to come up to my house, 
in a few days, on this occasion, and will endeavor to make the 
time convenient to you. I must entreat you to accompany him, 
and as this is a mere matter of business, and I can say will prove 
a troublesome one, I shall readily pay on the Company's account, 
such charge as you think reasonable. 

I beg to be kindly remembered to Mrs. Mercer and my young 
relatives, and am 
Dear Sir, 

Your affectionate kinsman and obedient servant, 

G. Mason. 

James Mercer, Esq.* 

The Mr. Dick mentioned in this letter was John Dick, of 
Fredericksburg, whose daughter Eleanor, James Mercer 
had married in 1772. 

George Mason was not psesent at the spring session of the 
Assembly, which opened on the 4th of May, 1778. And it 
is possible he was detained by his domestic affairs, or it may 
have been that he had an attack of the gout. His reputa- 
tion for zeal and energy, and his evident leadership in the 
House at this time, receive an amusing confirmation in the 
following extract from a letter of John Augustine Washing- 
ton, who wrote from " Bushfield,** his estate in Westmore- 
land, to Richard Henry Lee on the 26th of May : " I have 
not heard particularly what our Assembly are about ; but it 
is said it will be a short session, unless Col. Mason, who is 
not yet got down, should carve out more business for them 
than they have yet thought of. The revision of the Laws, 
I hear is to be postponed." ' It would seem that the ses- 
sion was shorter than Colonel Mason had anticipated, and 
that he did set out for Williamsburg, but found that he was 
too late, the Assembly having adjourned on the ist of June. 
John Parke Custis, who was in the House at this time as a 

' MS. Letter. * I^ee Papers, Souikern Literary Messenger ^ vol. vi., No. 5. 


delegate from Fairfax, refers to Colonel Mason in a letter he 
writes to Washington from "Mount Vernon," June 17th. 
Young Custis, after sending his correspondent the titles of 
the acts passed, at the session just closed, adds: 

" Our delegation to Congress, I am sorry to say, is not so good 
as I could wish or as we might have had, if the act for prevent- 
ing members of Congress sitting in the Assembly had been re- 
pealed. A bill for that purpose was brought in and shared the 
same fate with the other [a bill for regulating trade.] I have 
often wished my colleague had been present ; we might have 
prevented this evil. He is most inexcusable in staying away. 
He got as far as Colonel Blackburn's and heard the house had 
broken up. If that act had been repealed, our delegation would 
have been very respectable." 

The British commissioners came to America in June, 1778, 
on their fruitless errand of negotiation, and on the 28th of this 
month the battle of Monmouth was fought. The arrival of 
the French fleet stimulated afresh the hopes of the Ameri- 
cans, and we find in George Mason's letters written a little 
later to Richard Henry Lee, how cheering the prospect 
seemed at this time to ardent patriots. Let us hope the 
claret that was expected from France arrived safely, in which 
Colonel Mason was to drink his toasts to the French allies and 
the blundering British ministry. Lord Chatham indeed was 
dead, the " wise and good man " — dead at an hour fortunate 
for himself and for America, just as he was about to give his 
name and influence against the cause of which he had so long 
been the champion, 

July 3ist, 1778, GuNSTON Hall. 
Dear Sir: 

I am much obliged to you for the last papers, and the agreea- 
ble news they contain. American prospects brighten every day ; 
nothing I think, but the speedy arrival of a strong British squad- 
ron can save the enemy's fleet and army at New York ; indeed 
as to their fleet I trust the blow is already struck. We are apt to 

* " Recollections of Washington/' Appendix, p. 549. 


wish for peace, I confess I am, although I am clearly of opinion 
that war is the present interest of these United States. The 
Union is yet incomplete, and will be so until the inhabitants of 
all the territory from Cape Breton to the Mississippi are included 
in it. While Great Britain possesses Canada and West Florida, 
she will continually be setting the Indians upon us, and while she 
holds the harbors of Augustine and Halifax, especially the latter, 
we shall not be able to protect our trade or coasts from her dep- 
redations ; at least for many years to come. The possession of 
these two places would save us more than half a million a year, 
and we should then quickly have a fleet sufficient for the com- 
mon protection of our own coasts ; for without some strongholds 
in America, or naval magazines in our neighborhood. Great Brit- 
ain could seldom or never keep a squadron here. If she loses 
her army now in America, or is obliged to withdraw it, one of 
which I think must happen, this important object will probably 
be obtained in the course of another campaign. If the British 
ministry act consistently and in character, they will not recognise 
our independence until this business is completed, and until our 
prejudices against Great Britain are more firmly rooted, and we 
, become better reconciled to foreign manners and manufactures. 
It will require no great length of time to accomplish this, and 
then the wisdom of British councils will seize the auspicious 
moment and acknowledge our independence. 

Lord Chatham's death does not seem to be mentioned in the 
papers with certainty ; but from the infirm condition in which 
he appeared in the House of Lords in April, the account is more 
than probable. One cannot help being concerned at the death 
of a wise and good man ; yet it is certainly a favorable event to 
America. There was nothing I dreaded so much as his taking 
the helm, and nothing I more heartily wish than the continuance 
of the present ministry. After his most Christian Majesty, and 
happiness and prosperity to the French nation, my next toast 
shall be, " Long life and continuance in office to the present Brit- 
ish ministry," in the first bottle of good claret I get and I expect 
some by the first ships from France. 

If tickets in the second class of the lottery are put into the 
hands of the sellers in the former, I can very conveniently fur- 
nish myself here. I presume the sellers must be furnished with 


lists of the twenty-dollar prizes in the first class, to enable them 
to make proper discounts to the purchasers in the second. 

Your tobacco is sold at 60/, the highest price which has been 
given here ; the money shall be transmitted, by the first safe hand, 
to Mrs. Lee of Bellevieu, as you desired. 

A very worthy friend of mine in this county, Capt. Harper, had 
a partial and unjust judgment (as he thinks) lately given by a 
Court of Admiralty in North Carolina, against a vessel of his, . 

taken by Goodrich in Currattuck Inlet, and recovered by his own ( X 

captain's hands, for salvage, in favor of some militia companies. 
And what was worse, instead of unlading the vessel, or securing her 
in a place of safety, after they had taken her out of the possession 
of Harper's captain, they only took out some hogsheads of mo- 
lasses and sacks of salt, and suffered her to remain in the same 
spot, with the greatest part of her cargo on board, until Good- 
rich returned from New York (whither he had carried some other 
prizes), and cut the vessel out from her moorings. So that Capt. 
Harper sustains a loss of the vessel and the whole cargo, to the 
amount of several thousand pounds, and is totally at a loss how 
to proceed, not knowing what mode Congress have prescribed for 
redress in such cases. You will oblige me exceedingly in inform- 
ing me whether any Court of Vice-admiralty is established for the 
trial of appeals from the Courts of Admiralty in the different States, 
and where it sits ; if there is yet no such court whether Copgress, 
in the meantime, takes cognizance of such matters ; in short, what 
will be the proper steps for Capt. Harper to take to come at justice. 

I beg my compliments to your colleagues, particularly to your 

brother Col. F. Lee, and my friend Mr. Thos. Adams, and am, 

dear Sir, 

Your sincerely affectionate friend and servant, 

G. Mason.' 

Dear Sir • Gunston Hall, Aug. 24th, 1778. 

We have had such various and vague accounts of our affairs 
to the northward and of the movements of the French fleet, that 
I am extremely anxious to know with certainty what is doing. Is 
our army drawn near to King's Bridge ? Are the enemy's out- 

' Lee Papers, University of Virginia. (Published, in part, in the Southern 
Literary Messenger^ Oct., 1858.) 


posts abandoned ? Is New York effectually besieged ? Are, or 
can the enemy be prevented from foraging upon Long Lsland 
and Staten Island ? Is the Cork fleet of victuallers arrived at 
New York ; or was the report a piece of artifice ? or has any such 
fleet actually sailed ? Has Lord Howe's fleet left Sandy Hook 
and gone to Rhode Island, or were the English ships which ap- 
peared there a fleet lately from Great Britain, and what has been 
the consequence of their meeting with Count D'Estaing's squad- 
ron ? Are the French land forces landed upon Rhode Island, to 
act in concert with Gen. Sullivan, or are they thought to be 
able to Burgoyne the British troops there ? I am almost ashamed 
of having asked you so many questions. I think they are nearly 
equal to the string with which old Col. Cary once harassed 
Dr. Francis upon his coming on shore at Hampton. If Lord 
Howe, with his fleet, has really left New York, the British army 
must be in the most desperate circumstances, and his intention 
must be to draw off the attention of the French squadron until 
the troops can embark, and run down to the southward, where 
they can get provisions, for I hardly think they can have provi- 
sions for a long voyage. 

The money received for your tobacco is sent down to Mrs. 
Lee at '' Belleview," as you desired. I wish the tobacco had not 
been sold so soon, as the price is risen 15/ per hundred since. 

If the Congress or any of your friends should have occasion 
to purchase a quantity of tobacco in this part of the country, I 
would beg leave to recommend my friend and neighbor, Mr. 
Martin Cockburn. He was regularly bred to business in a very 
capital house in London, and I know no man whose attachment 
to the American cause, or whose integrity, diligence and punctu- 
ality can be more thoroughly confided in. I am not fond of 
giving recommendations, but I am so well acquainted with Mr. 
Cockburn that I know I can recommend him with safety. God 
bless you, my dear sir, and believe me 

Your affectionate friend and servant, 

G. Mason.* 

Col. George Mercer, who had gone to London as the 
Ohio Company's agent in 1763, returned to Virginia in the 

^ IHd, 


unfortunate character of stamp agent in 1765, but was soon 
back again in England, where he remained until some time 
in 1767, when he revisited his native land, bringing with him 
an English bride. This lady died in Richmond the following 
year, and Colonel Mercer soon after returned to London. 
His correspondence with George Mason, after an interrup- 
tion of several years, was renewed in 1778. In reply to a 
letter of Colonel Mercer's, George Mason wrote to his 
cousin, giving some account of himself and his public work, 
dating his retrospect from the death of his wife in 1773. 

" Virginia, Gunston Hall, Oct. 2d, 1778. 
" My Dear Sir : 

"It gave me great pleasure upon receipt of your favor of the • . 

23d of April by Mr. Digges, to hear that you are alive and well in 
a country where you can spend your time agreeably, not having 
heard a word from you or of you for two years before. 

'' I am much obliged by the friendly concern you take in my 
domestic affairs, and in your kind inquiry after my family ; great 
alterations have happened in it. About four years ago I had the 
misfortune to lose my wife ; to you who knew her and the happy 
manner in which we lived, I will not attempt to describe my feel- 
ings. I was scarce able to bear the first shock, a depression of 
my spirits and a settled melancholy followed, from which I never 
expect or desire to recover. I determined to spend the remain- 
der of my days in privacy and retirement with my children, 
from whose society alone I could expect comfort. Some of 
these are now grown up to men and women, and I have the satis- 
faction to see them free from vices, good-natured, obliging and 
dutiful. They all still live with me and remain single except my 
daughter Sally, who is lately married to my neighbor Mr. 
McCarty's son. My eldest daughter Nancy (who is blessed 
with her mother's amiable disposition) is mistress of my family, 
and manages my little domestic matters with a degree of pru- 
dence far above her years. My eldest son George engaged early 
in the American cause and was chosen ensign of the first Inde- 
pendent Company formed in Virginia, or indeed on the continent ; 
it was commanded by the present General Washington as captain, 
and consisted entirely of gentlemen. In the year 1775 he was 


appointed a captain of foot in one of the first Minute Regiments 
raised here, but was soon obliged to quit the service by a violent 
rheumatic disorder, which has followed him ever since, and I 
believe will force him to try the climate of France or Italy. My 
other sons have not yet finished their education ; as soon as they 
do, if the war continues, they seem strongly inclined to take an 
active part. 

''In the summer of '75 I was, much against my inclination 
dragged out of my retirement by the people of my county, and 
sent a delegate to the General Convention at Richmond, where 
I was appointed a member of the first Committee of Safety, and 
have since at different times been chosen a member of the Privy 
Council and of the American Congress, but have constantly 
declined acting in any other public character than that of an 
independent representative of the people in the House of Dele- 
gates, where I still remain from a consciousness of being able to 
do my country more service there than in any other department ; 
and have ever since devoted most of my time to public business 
to the no small neglect and injury of my private fortune ; but if 
I can only live to see the American Union firmly fixed and free 
government well established in our western world, and can leave 
to my children but a crust of bread and liberty, I shall die satis- 
fied, and say with the Psalmist, ' Lord now lettest thou thy 
servant depart in peace.' 

'' To show you that I have not been an idle spectator of this 
great contest, and to amuse you with the sentiments of an old 
friend upon an important subject, I inclose you a copy of the first 
draught of the Declaration of Rights just as it was drawn by me 
and presented to the Virginia Convention, where it received few 
alterations, some of them, I think, not for the better. This was 
the first thing of the kind upon the continent, and has been 
closely imitated by all the other States. There is a remarkable 
sameness in all the forms of government throughout the American 
Union, except in the States of South Carolina and Pennsylvania ; 
the first having three branches of legislature, and the last only 
one. All the other States have two. This difference has given 
general disgust, and it is probable an alteration will soon take 
place to assimilate these to the constitutions of the other States. 
We have laid our new government upon a broad foundation, and 


have endeavored to provide the most effectual securities for the 
essential rights of human nature, both in civil and religious lib- 
erty. The people become every day more and more attached to 
it, and I trust that neither the power of Great Britain, nor the 
power of Hell will be able to prevail against it. There was 
never an idler or a falser notion than that which the British minis- 
try have imposed upon the nation, that this great Revolution has 
been the work of a faction, of a junto of ambitious men, against 
the sense of the people of America. On the contrary, nothing 
has been done without the approbation of the people, who have 
indeed outrun their leaders, so that no capital measure hath been 
adopted until they called loudly for it. To any one who knows 
mankind there needs no greater proof than the cordial manner in 
which they have co-operated, and the patience and perseverance 
with which they have struggled under their sufferings, which have 
been greater than you at a distance can conceive, or I describe. 
'' Equally false is the assertion that independence was origi- 
nally designed here. Things have gone such lengths that it is a 
matter of moonshine to us whether independence was at first 
intended or not, and therefore we may now be believed. The 
truth is, we have been forced into it as the only means of self- 
preservation, to guard our country and posterity from the great- * 
est of all evils, such another infernal government (if it deserves 
the name of government) as the Provinces groaned under in the 
latter ages of the Roman Commonwealth. To talk of replacing 
us in the situation of 1763, as we first asked, is to the last degree 
absurd and impossible. They obstinately refused it while it was 
in their power, and now that it is out of their power they offer it. 
Can they raise our cities out of their ashes ? Can they replace 
in ease and afHuence the thousands of families whom they have 
ruined ? Can they restore the husband to the widow, the child 
to the parent, or the father to the orphan ? In a word, can they 
reanimate the dead ? Our country has been made a scene of 
desolation and blood. Enormities and cruelties have been com- 
mitted here which not only disgrace the British name, but dis- 
honor the human-kind. We can never again trust a people who 
have thus served us ; human nature revolts at the idea. The die 
is cast, the rubicon is passed, and a reconciliation with Great 
Britain upon the terms of returning to her government is impos- hV^^ 


I sible. No man was more warmly attached to the Hanover family 
and the Whig interest of England than I was ; and few men had 
stronger prejudices in favor of that form of government under 
which I was born and bred, or a greater aversion to changing it 
It was ever my opinion, that no good man would wish to try so 
dangerous an experiment upon any speculative notions whatso- 
ever, without an absolute necessity. The ancient poets, in their 
elegant manner of expression, have made a kind of being of 
necessity, and tell us that the gods themselves are obliged to 
yield to her. 

" When I was first a member of the Convention I exerted my- 
self to prevent a confiscation of the King's Quit Rents, and 
although I was for putting the country immediately into a state 
of defence, and preparing for the worst, yet as long as we had 
any well-founded hopes of reconciliation, I opposed to the ut- 

Imost of my power all violent measures, and such as might shut 
the door to it. But when reconciliation became a lost hope, 
when unconditional submission or effectual resistance were the 
only alternatives left us, when the last dutiful and humble petition 
from Congress received no other answer than declaring us rebels 
and out of the King's protection, I from that moment looked 
forward to a revolution and independence as the only means of 
salvation ; and will risk the last penny of my fortune, and the 
last drop of my blood, upon the issue. For to imagine that we 
could resist the efforts of Great Britain still professing our- 
selves her subjects, or support a defensive war against a powerful 
nation, without the reins of government in the hands of America 
(whatever our pretended friends in Great Britain may say of it), 
is too childish and futile an idea to enter into the head of any 
man of sense. I am not singular in my opinions : these are 
the sentiments of more than nine tenths of the best men in 

" God has been pleased to bless our endeavors in a just cause 
with remarkable success. To us upon the spot who have seen 
step by step the progress of this great contest, who know the 
defenceless state of America in the beginning, and the numberless 
difficulties we have had to struggle with, taking a retrospective 
view of what is passed, we seem to have been treading upon 
enchanted ground. The case is now altered, American prospects 


brighten and appearances are strongly in our favor. The British 
ministry must and will acknowledge us independent States, but 
(judging the future by the past) if they act consistently, they 
will delay this until mutual injuries and resentments are further 
aggravated, until our growing prejudices against Great Britain 
are more firmly rooted, and until we become better reconciled to 
foreign manufactures and foreign manners. It will not require 
many years to accomplish this, and then the wisdom of British 
councils will seize the auspicious moment to recognize the inde- 
pendence of America. 

** The present plan of the British ministry seems to be to cor- 
rupt and bribe the Congress ; but in this, as they have in every- 
thing else, they will be disappointed ; not that I imagine that 
there are no rotten members in so numerous a body of men. 
Among the twelve apostles there was a Judas — but they are too 
much in the power of the Assemblies of their respective States, 
and so thoroughly amenable to the people, that no man among 
them, who values his own life, dares to tamper ; and upon this 
rock the safety of America is founded. 

" I have thus given you a long and faithful, and I fear you will 
think a tedious account of the political state of affairs here ; my 
opportunities of knowing them are equal to most men's, and the 
natural anxiety you must have to be well informed of the situation 
of your native country, at so important a crisis, will apologize for 
the trouble. 

''We have had 200,000 acres of land laid off, marked and 
bounded in one survey for the Ohio [Company]." ' 

' An incomplete copy of this letter is preserved in the Mason family, and 
junong the Lee Papers, Harvard University, is a copy with several paragraphs 
in addition, though the conclusion and signature are wanting. The letter was 
first published in Niles* "Principles and Acts of the Revolution," from the 
Mason draft. 



I 778-1 779. 

Through this letter to Colonel Mercer, of 1778, we look in 
upon the family circle at " Gunston Hall," and see the grave 
statesman surrounded by his sons and daughters, some of 
them now grown to manhood and womanhood, and the 
eldest daughter, who so resembled her mother in character, 
presiding over her widowed father's house. The first mar- 
riage in the family had just taken place. The second daugh- 
ter, Sarah, then about twenty, married Daniel McCarty, Jr., 
the son of Col. Daniel McCarty, of " Mount Airy," in Fairfax 
County. The young couple settled at " Cedar Grove," in 
the same neighborhood. Of this sister, her brother, John 
Mason, used to say in after years, that he never remembered 
to have heard her speak a cross word. A lovely portrait of 
her is preserved by her descendants, taken in her widowhood, 
when about forty, with the delicate features and auburn hair 
inherited from her mother, framed in a close-fitting widow's 
cap. It will be seen from Colonel Mason's account of his 
political career, that he had been elected more than once to 
the Council, but had refused this place, as well as a seat in the 
Continental Congress, desiring only to be " an independent 
representative of the people in the House of Delegates." 
The Virginia planter, obliged to send abroad for many of 
the household stuffs required in his family, and now cut off 
from Great Britain, and, by the progress of the war, finding 
it difficult to communicate with France, was in some per- 



plexity on this score, in 1778, as will be seen by the following 
letters from Colonel Mason to Richard Harrison, merchant 
in Martinique : 

Virginia, Gunston Hall, 
October 24t1i, 1778. 

Dear Sir : 

I sent you by Capt. John Sanford of the sloop Flying-Fish^ last 
voyage, a few silver dollars, to discharge the little balance you 
was so kind to advance for me, in the goods purchased and 
sent me by him from Martinique ; but he informed me, upon his 
return, that not meeting with any safe opportunity of sending the 
money from St. Eustatia he had brought it back again. I there- 
fore desired him to carry it out again, this last voyage, and if he 
did not find you at St. Eustatia (as he told me he expected) to 
endeavour to give it a conveyance from thence to you to Mar- 

I am uneasy at not having heard anything respecting the goods 
you ordered for me last year from France, and must beg you will 
let me know whether you have any, and what late advices con- 
cerning them. As hostilities are now commenced between France 
and England, and they seem to be making very free with each 
others' ships, they will be probably in as great danger in a French 
bottom, coming to the West Indies, as to this continent. Will it 
not therefore be better, if they ate not yet shipped for Martinique, 
to direct your correspondent to ship them immediately to Vir- 
ginia, in the first good vessel, and consign them to me ? In which 
case I would have a proper insurance made on them in France, 
and in case of loss, the goods reshipped as before and again 
insured. However, I submit this to you, not doubting but you 
will do therein for the best ; and remain, dear Sir, 

Your most obedient servant, 

G. Mason. 

To Richard Harrison, Esq : 
Merchant in Martinique. 

Capt. Johns, 
of the Dolphin.' 

* MS. Letter. 


Richard Harrison had returned to Virginia when George 
Mason wrote again. 

GuNSTON Hall, November 9, 1778. 
Dear Sir : 

I have your favor of the 5th inst. and heartily congratulate 
you on your safe return to your native country and friends. 

I set off to-morrow rooming for the Asserobly. I expect my 
stay in Williamsburg will be pretty long, during which, if any- 
thing should occur in which I can serve you there it will give 
me pleasure. 

I hardly know what steps will be best to take with respect 
to Mr. Lemozin. It really looks as if he preferred keeping the 
money in his hands to sending out the goods ordered. I shall 
be a considerable loser by his negligence, even if he now sends 
the goods, as the hostilities between the French and English 
make the risk much greater, and consequently the insurance 
higher, whereas if he had sent them out at first, they would have 
come with very little charge to Martinique, and almost the only 
risk would have been from thence hither. As the bills and in- 
voice were remitted in your name, I can't with propriety, write 
to him, or give orders on the subject, and must therefore beg the 
favor of you to do it, by different opportunities, desiring him to 
send the goods immediately, by the first good vessel to Virginia, 
if they are not already shipped to Martinique, reminding him to 
insure, and in case of loss to reship the same articles and insure 
again. It will be most convenient to have them sent to Potomac, 
but as an opportunity for that purpose may not speedily offer, if 
they are sent to James or York river, I would have them ad- 
dressed to the care of Col. William Aylett at Williamsburg ; if to 
Rappahannock, to the care of Col. Thos. Jett, merchant near 
Leeds Tavern. I think it may not be amiss to mention to Mr. 
Lemozin his very extraordinary delay in this business, and the 
inconvenience and loss incurred by it, and to let him know that 
if the order is not speedily executed, the money will be drawn 
out of his hands, and put into those of some other merchants 
who will be more punctual. Or if you have any other corre- 
spondent at this place, whom you think safe, I believe it might 
be well to desire the favor of him to make inquiry about it, or 


to send him a draft on Mr. Lemozin for the money, in case the 
goods are not bought when it arrives, for I presume if they are 
not by that time they never will by that gentleman. 

Upon the whole, I leave it entirely to you, sir, to take such 
measures therein as you judge best, and am, dear sir, 

Your most obedient servant, 

George Mason. 
Richard Harrison, Esq : 

The Assembly met on the Sth of October, and Colonel 
Mason was not in his place. The House was called over 
two days later, and both George and Thomson Mason were 
among the missing members who were ordered to be taken 
into custody by the scrgeant-at-arms. Thomson Mason 
arrived in the sergeant's custody on the 23d, and was 
obliged to pay fees ; but it was not until the 19th of No- 
vember that Colonel Mason ** attended, in custody of the 
sergeant-at-arms, and was discharged, paying fees." ' In the 
meantime Thomson Mason had been placed on the more 
prominent committees, and was employed on the business of 
the important memorials presented to the House. He was 
made chairman of the committee who were appointed to 
search the public records for papers on the subject of the 
claim of Richard Henderson & Company. The case was 
heard at the bar of the House, and it was decided that 
all purchases made from the Indians, of lands within the 
chartered boundaries of Virginia should be considered void, 
and the purchase of Henderson & Company was of this 
nature ; but that in consideration of the expense they had 
incurred in quieting the Indians and making settlements, 
some compensation should be made them. Thomson Mason 
was then made chairman of the committee appointed to 
decide what compensation was equitable.' No doubt Colo- 
nel Mason was corresponding with his brother at this time, 
and felt it less obligatory to hasten his own arrival in the 

I MS. Letter. * Journal of the Assembly. ' IHd. 

20 ■ 


Assembly, as Thomson Mason was present and could attend 
to this business for him. 

On the 4th of November Colonel Wood of the 
8th Virginia regiment presented a memorial, setting 
forth the sufferings of the soldiers. A committee of five 
was appointed to confer with Colonel Wood on this 
subject. Thomson Mason was on this committee, and 
a bill was brought in for supplying the deficiency of the 
Virginia troops in the Continental service. A letter from 
Colonel Wood to General Washington, dated the 12th of No- 
vember, enables us to look in upon the Virginia Assembly 
at this time. But the soldier's view of the military situation 
was by no means that of the more sanguine legislators, it 
would appear. And the slow methods of the law-makers 
were not to the taste of the impatient warrior. 

** Williamsburg, lath November, 1778. 
•* Sir : 

'' I have been here near three weeks without being able, as yet, 
to get a final determination on any part of the business I came to 
transact. On my arrival, I discovered that the whole legislative 
body were highly pleased, with a thorough persuasion, that the 
war was at an end, that the British troops were embarking, and 
that there was not the most distant probability they would again 
return to the continent. On Gov. Henry's laying your Excel- 
lency's letter before the House, I was happy to find it effectually 
roused them from their lethargy. They immediately appointed 
Mr. Mason, Mr. Page, Mr. Nelson, and Mr. Parker a committee 
to confer with me on the state of the troops belonging to the 
Virginia line. ... A great part of the present session has 
been taken up in considering the grants made by the Cherokees 
to Henderson and Company, which they have at last declared 
totally void. ... I shall continue here till the bill for 
recruiting the regiments passes, and other matters respecting the 
army are considered, which I am afraid will not be long before 
Christmas, if I am to judge from their manner of doing busi- 
ness. . . ." ' 

' ** Correspondence of the American Revolution." Sparks, vol. ii., p. 239. 


Colonel Clark had been successful in his expedition, and 
with Virginia troops had conquered for his State the large 
domain in the Northwest, already hers by charter right, now 
to be known as the county of Illinois. And on the 19th of 
November, the day George Mason arrived in the Assembly, 
the letters and papers of Colonel Clark were read and re- 
ferred to a committee composed of Thomson Mason, George 
Mason, and others, who accordingly prepared a bill " for 
establishing a county to include the inhabitants of this 
commonwealth, on the western side of the Ohio River, and 
for the better government of those inhabitants." " The next 
day a petition of the Ohio Company was brought before the 
House asking that those members living in Maryland and 
Virginia receive land patents as soon as a land-office is 
established, '' each in his own name, for his due share or 
proportion of two hundred thousand acres of said grant." 
This was the land surveyed for the company to which 
Colonel Mason makes reference in the letter to George 
Mercer. And doubtless George Mason presented the peti- 
tion. He was placed this day on five committees — that of 
Privileges and Elections, Propositions and Grievances, the 
Committee on Trade, that for appointing commissioners to 
ascertain the claims to unpatented lands, and the committee 
for settling a compensation for Richard Henderson and 
Company. On the 21st a memorial was presented to the 
House by George Mason and ordered to be read at a future 
day. A resolution of thanks to Colonel Clark was passed by 
the House on the 23d, acknowledging the country's indebted- 
ness to this officer, who '' with a body of Virginia militia has 
reduced the British posts in the western parts of this com- 
monwealth, on the river Mississippi and its branches." Col- 
onel Mason was put on two other committees at this time, 
charged with preparing bills providing against invasions 
and insurrections, and to ascertain the mode of impressing 
wagons and horses. George Mason's memorial was read on 
this day, " setting forth that he hath a claim to a consider- 

' Journal of the Assembly. 


able quantity of land upon the western waters, due to him 
upon charter importation rights, which hath been recognized 
by the Governor and Council during the British government, 
as legal and valid : that conscious of the uprightness of his 
conduct and soundness of his title, he has proceeded to locate 
and survey the lands which he thus claims, in the most legal 
and authentic manner ; and praying that his title and loca- 
tions and surveys may be confirmed." * 

Jefferson made his appearance in the Assembly on the last 
day of November, and on this day the bill for establishing 
the county of Illinois was brought in by Thomson Mason, 
chairman of the committee charged to prepare it. A bill 
amending the act to establish a board of auditors was com- 
mitted to Jefferson, George Mason, and several others. And 
both George and Thomson Mason were united with Jeffer- 
son, Tyler, and one other member, in preparing a bill for 
establishing a court of appeals. The memorial of the 
Indiana Company, and their claim to certain lands purchased 
of the Indians at Fort Stanwix in 1768, was deferred for 
consideration to the May session. Colonel Mason, on the 
1 2th of December, gave in the report of the committee to 
whom the disputed boundary question between Virginia and 
Pennsylvania had been referred. It was resolved that the 
southern boundary offered by the Pennsylvania Assembly 
was inadmissible, and that unless the whole offer made by 
Virgfinia was accepted no part of it would be considered 
binding. And it was proposed that commissioners from 
each State should meet and fix the boundaries. 

On the 15th George Mason presented a bill to prohibit the 
distillation of spirits from com, wheat, rye, and other grain, 
for a limited period. And he was at this time appointed, 
with one other member of the Assembly, to bring in a bill 
for the more general diffusion of knowledge. The action of 
the Assembly, the year before, for establishing schools in 
Virginia was one of the public measures for which Tucker 
gives Jefferson the chief credit. But in all probability 

^ Ibid, 


George Mason had quite as much to do with it ; and the 
bill on the subject passed at this session was his work. 
Colonel Mason was also on the committee to whoili a 
memorial from William and Mary College had been re- 
ferredy asking for aid to carry on their work of education. 
Letters from the governor, from the president of Congress, 
and the Virginia delegates were received on the 15th, and 
referred to a select committee of which George Mason was 
chairman. Jefferson and Thomson Mason were named im- 
mediately after him on the committee. Colonel Mason re- 
ported, the next day, from this committee the following 
resolutions : 

*' That all persons exporting grain or other victual contrary to 
the act of Assembly laying an embargo for a certain time, ought 
to be rendered incapable of carrying on any trade or commerce 
within the commonwealth of Virginia ; and that the master of 
any vessel building within the State of Virginia, or coming into 
it, shall give bond with sufficient security, to the naval officer of 
the district, that he will not, during the stay of the vessel, load or 
take on board any articles other than shall be necessary for sus- 
tenance of the crew for her voyage ; that persons who purchase 
grain or other victual, other than for the consumption of their 
families, or for manufacture, ought to be declared by law engross- 
ers ; and that persons who illegally take upon themselves the 
character of public agents or contractors, should be punished." 

And in accordance with these resolutions, George Mason, 
on the 1 8th, presented a bill for the more effectual exe- 
cution of the act, laying an embargo for a limited time. 
The following day Colonel Mason brought in a bill ex- 
plaining the act to enable the officers of the Virginia line, 
and to encourage the soldiers of the same, to continue in 
continental service. A resolution to raise a regiment of six 
hundred men to guard British prisoners, and for other pur- 
poses, was carried to the Senate for confirmation by Thomson 
Mason. And resolutions to instruct the board of commis- 
sioners to make such alterations in the arrangements of the 


navy, and to direct such fortifications and batteries on 
Chesapeake Bay as might be deemed necessary for the 
protection of trade, were carried to the Senate by George 
Mason.' And a message from the House to the Senate was 
delivered by Colonel Mason on the 19th, which was to this 
effect : 

'' That they have agreed to a resolution, that a certain tract of 
country, to be bounded by the Green River, and a southeast 
course from the head thereof to the Cumberland mountains, 
with the said mountains to the Carolina line, with the Caro- 
lina line to the Cherokee or Tennessee River, with the said river 
to the Ohio River, and with the Ohio to the said Green River, 
ought to be reserved for supplying the officers and soldiers in the 
Virginia line, with the respective proportions of land, which have 
been or may be assigned to them by the General Assembly, 
saving and reserving the land granted to Richard Henderson 
and Company, and their, legal rights to such persons as have 
heretofore actually located lands and settled thereon, within the 
bounds aforesaid." ' 

This tract of land embraced a large portion of the State of 
Kentucky. The Virginia Assembly adjourned on this day, 
the 19th of December, getting through their work before 
Christmas, contrary to Colonel Wood's forebodings. It will 
be seen that this had been a busy session for Colonel Mason, 
and that he and his brother Thomson had been foremost in 
all its legislation. 

One of the most important acts of the Assembly at 
this time was to provide for the government of the domain 
recently secured to Virginia by Colonel Clark. And it is 
an interesting circumstance to record in connection with 
George Mason, that the most valuable contemporary in- 
formation as to this brilliant expedition of Clark's is to be 
found in a letter addressed by him to his friend and patron 
at " Gunston Hall." The letter of George Rogers Clark to 
Governor Jefferson from Kaskaskias, written in April, 1779, 

^ Ihid, * Journal of the Senate. 


gives an official account of his exploits, which is not nearly 
so full as the recital he makes Colonel Mason/ From this 
letter to George Mason, presented by him to the Kentucky 
Historical Society, we learn of the almost paternal relation 
which Mason seemed to hold to the impetuous and gallant 
young soldier, and of the warm regard and esteem that sub- 
sisted between the two friends. Unfortunately no letter of 
Mason to Clark has been preserved, and of the latter's letters 
to Colonel Mason there is but the one memorial remaining 
of what was doubtless a not infrequent correspondence. 
Colonel Clark, whom John Randolph, of Roanoke, calls 
the American Hannibal, and whose expedition across the 
drowned lands of the Wabash he compares to the Afri- 
can general's passage of the Thrasimene marsh, gives in 
simple and graphic detail the story of his arduous achieve- 
ments. He wrote from Louisville on the 19th of November, 
1779, and prefaces his recital with the following respectful 
and affectionate apology for former negligence : 

" My Dear Sir : Continue to favor me with your valuable 
lessons ; continue your reprimands as though I was your son ; 
when suspicious think not that promotion or conferred honor 
will occasion any unnecessary pride in me ; you have infused too 
many of your valuable precepts in me to be guilty of the like, or 
to show any indifference to those that ought to be dear to me. 
It is with pleasure that I obey in transmitting to you a short 
sketch of my enterprise and proceeding in the Illinois, as near 
as I can recollect, or gather from memorandums." * 

We follow the writer, then, in his narration of the journey 
into the wilderness, to these remote posts, and see his firm 
yet conciliating treatment of the citizens in the old French 

* A letter written to Patrick Henry, then Governor of Virginia, by Colonel 
Clark, on the 24th of February, 1779, the day of Governor Hamilton's sur- 
render, captured by the British and lost sight of for more than a^ century, 
is in the Haldimand Collection, British Museum, and a copy of it is at Ottawa, 

* Clark's " Campaign in the Illinois," Cincinnati, 1869. 


towns, and his bold and skilful policy with the Indians. Of 
the latter he writes : 

" It may appear otherwise to you, but I always thought we took 
wrong methods of treating with Indians, and strove as soon as 
possible to make myself acquainted with the French and Spanish 
mode, which must be preferable to ours, otherwise they could not 
possibly have such great influence among them ; when acquainted 
with it, it exactly coincided with my own idea, and I resolved to 
follow that same rule as near as circumstances would permit." 

After the capture of Kaskaskias, on the Mississippi, Clark, 
leaving the town in charge of some of his men, went on to 
La Prairie du Rocher (Lapraraderush^ Clark spells it). 

"The ladies and gentlemen immediately assembled at a ball 
for our entertainment ; we spent the forepart of the night very 
agreeably, but about 12 o'clk. there was a very sudden change, 
by an express arriving informing us that Gov. Hamilton [military 
governor of Detroit] was within three miles." 

Great was the confusion that followed ; but Colonel Clark, 
while promptly making his arrangements to return to the 
fort, was resolved, with true soldierly nonchalance, to enjoy 
the passing hour. " I thanked them," he says, " for the care 
they had of my person, and told them it was the fate of war, 
that a good soldier never ought to be afraid of his life where 
there was a probability of his doing service by venturing of 
it, which was my case. That I hoped that they would not 
let the news spoil our diversion sooner than was necessary, 
and that we would divert ourselves until our horses was 
ready, forced them to dance, and endeavored to appear as 
unconcerned as if no such thing was in agitation. This con- 
duct inspired the young men in such a manner that many of 
them was getting their horses to share fate with me." 
Clark, though, fully felt the gravity of the situation, as he 
tells his correspondent. However, Governor Hamilton did 
not come. Yet, a little later, the young commander adds : 
" Our situation still appeared desperate, it was at this mo- 


ment I would have bound myself seven years a slave to 
have had five hundred troops/' Captain McCarty and his 
men were sent for from the little French village where they 
had been stationed, and then followed the difficult and dis- 
tressing march from Kaskaskias to Vincennes. The low 
lands were flooded, the soldiers had nothing to eat, and their 
sufferings from hunger and exposure were terrible. Colonel 
Clark says of this episode : 

" If I was sensible that you would let no person see this rela- 
tion, I would give you a detail of our sufferings for four days in 
crossing these waters, and the manner it was done, as I am sure 
that you would credit it ; but it is too incredible for any person 
to believe except those that are well acquainted with me as you 
are, or had experienced something similar to it. I hope you will 
excuse me until I have the pleasure of seeing you personally." 

Safely on dry ground again, they lay for some time in a 
grove of trees to dry their clothes by the sun's heat. "A 
thousand ideas flushed in my head at this moment," writes 
Clark, and he tells of his plans, and the dangers and con- 
tingencies that seemed imminent. But his daring and 
energy were soon to be crowned with success, and Governor 
Hamilton, completely taken by surprise, became an easy 

'' In a few hours I found my prize sure, certain of taking every 
man that I could have wished for, being the whole of those that 
incited the Indians to war ; all my past sufferings vanished ; 
never was a man more happy." 

Colonel Clark tells a touching story of an old French 
gentleman, one of the volunteers that had joined him, who had 
a son who was in the employment of Hamilton, and at the 
head of a party of Indians. The American commander had 
ordered the leader of the Indians to be put to death. He 
was painted as an Indian warrior, and his father, not know- 
ing who it was, in his zeal stood over the prisoner with 
drawn sword to prevent his escape. The poor youth, as the 


executioner's tomahawk was raised to strike him down, cried 
to heaven for aid in his extreniity. The French officer 
recognized his child's voice, and of course the execution 
was stayed, and the intercession of the father saved the 
young man's life. Colonel Clark concludes his letter thus: 
" I shall not for the future leave it in your power to accuse 
me for a neglect of friendship, but shall continue to transmit 
to you whatever I think worth your notice." And he then 
adds in a postscript : 

'' As for the description of the Illinois country, which you seem 
so anxious for, you may expect to have by the ensuing fall, as I 
expect by that period to be able to give you a more general idea 
of it. . . . The different nations of Indians, their traditions, 
numbers, &c., you may expect in my next." * 

It can easily be imagined with what pleasure this recital 
of interesting and heroic adventure was read aloud to the 
family circle at "Gunston." Colonel Clark had probably 
been a frequent visitor there, and was regarded with pride 
and affection by the head of the house, who advised and 
counselled his young friend evidently as if he were a son. 
George Rogers Clark was at this time about twenty-five. 
He was a native of Albemarle County, but had been for 
several years a resident of Kentucky. Already distinguished 
in the border warfare as well as in the civil affairs of his new 
home, and identified in later life with its fortunes, he is 
claimed as one of the founders of this commonwealth. 
Kentucky, however, was at this time a Virgfinia county, and 
it was as a Virginian and at the head of two or three thou- 
sand Virginia troops that Colonel Clark conquered for his 
State the new county of Illinois, from which five common- 
wealths were to emerge later. 

Colonel Mason wrote to General Washington on the 8th 
of March, 1779, asking for letters of introduction for his 
eldest son, George, who was about to sail to Europe for his 
health. And Washington replied promptly to his friend's 



Virginia, Gunston Hall, 
Dear General : March 8, 1779. 

I shall make no other apology for my long silence, than can- 
didly telling you the cause of it. Sensible of the constant and 
great load of public business upon your hands, and knowing how 
little time you had to spare, I thought it was wrong to intrude 
upon it, by a correspondence of mere private friendship, or the 
communication of matters of little importance. This and this 
only, is the reason I have not wrote to you frequently, for I can 
truly say there is not a man in the world who more cordially 
wishes you every blessing, has a higher sense of the important 
services you have rendered our common country, or who feels 
more satisfaction in being informed of your prosperity and 
welfare. And if anything should occur in your affairs here, in 
which I can be of any manner of service, you can't confer a 
greater obligation on me than giving me the occasion. 

I have at this time, sir, a particular favor to beg of you. My 
son George, who has been long afflicted with an obstinate rheu- 
matic complaint, for which he has used the Berkley and Augusta 
Springs in vain, has determined to try the effect of some of the 
southern climates of Europe, for a year or two, and intends to go 
out in a vessel which will sail soon from Alexandria. Whether 
he will fix his residence in France, Spain, or Italy, must depend 
upon the advice of the physicians in Paris ; but most probably 
it will be at Montpelier, or somewhere in the south of France. 
And as I have no acquaintance, and he will be an utter stranger 
in France, you will oblige me exceedingly by giving him letters 
of introduction, as the son of a friend of yours, to the Marquis 
de la Fayette and Doctor Franklin, at Paris, whose notice will 
be a great satisfaction and advantage to him. 

I have also another affair to trouble you with. There is one, 
Mr. Smith, from Loudon County, who entered as a lieutenant in 
the regiment of riflemen first raised by Mr. Stinson, and after- 
wards commanded by Col. Rawlins. He was taken prisoner at 
Fort Washington, and has remained in the enemy's hands ever 
since, under very harsh treatment. His wife, who is said to be a 
worthy woman, and has a number of small children, is exceed- 
ingly distressed by her husband's long captivity. She has heard 
from him lately, and upon his telling her that he had no prospect 


of being exchanged soon, she is apprehensive that by some mis- 
take, he has been overlooked in the course of the cartel, and not 
had his due turn, and has therefore applied to me to ask the 
favor of you to cause an enquiry to be made concerning him, and 
direct his being exchanged as soon as it can regularly be done. 

I beg you will pardon this trouble, and believe me, with the 
greatest sincerity, dear sir, 

Your most affectionate & obdt. servant, 

G. Mason.' 

Camp at Middlrbrook, 
March 27, 1779. 

Dear Sir : 

By some interruption of the last week's mail, your favor of the 
8th did not reach my hands till last night. Under cover of this, 
Mr. Mason (if he should not have sailed,) to whom I heartily 
wish a perfect restoration of health, will receive two letters : one 
of them to the Marquis de la Fayette, and the other to Doctor 
Franklin, in furnishing which I am happy, as I wish for instances 
in which I can testify the sincerity of my regard for you. 

Our commissary of prisoners hath been invariably and pointedly 
instructed to exchange those officers first, who were first capti- 
vated, as far as rank will apply, and I have every reason to 
believe he has obeyed the order, as I have refused a great many 
applications for irregular exchanges in consequence, and I did it 
because I would not depart from my principle, and thereby incur 
the charge of partiality. It sometimes happens, that officers later 
in captivity than others, have been exchanged before them, but 
it is in cases where the ranks of the enemy's officers in our 
possession do not apply to the latter. There is a prospect now, 
I think, of a general exchange taking place, which will be very 
pleasing to the parties and their connexions, and will be a means 
of relieving much distress to individuals, though it may not, cir- 
cumstanced as we are at this time, be advantageous to us con- 
sidered in a national and political point of view. Partial 
exchanges have, for some time past, been discontinued by the 

Though it is not in my power to devote much time to private 
correspondences, owing to the multiplicity of public letters (and 

I Washington MSS., Department of SUte. 


Other business) I have to read, write, and transact, yet I can with 
great truth assure you, that it would afford me very singular 
pleasure to be favored, at all times, with your sentiments in a 
leisure hour, upon public matters of general concernment, as well 
as those which more immediately respect your own State (if 
proper conveyances would render prudent a free communication). 
I am particularly desirous of it at this time, because I view things 
very differently, I fear, from what people in general do, who 
seem to think that the contest is at an end, and to make money, 
and to get places, the only thing now remaining to do. I have 
seen without despondency, (even for a moment,) the hours which 
America has styled her gloomy ones — but I have beheld no day 
since the commencement of hostilities, that I have thought her 
liberties in such imminent danger as at the present. Friends and 
foes seem now to combine to pull down the goodly fabric we 
have hitherto been raising at the expense of so much time, blood, 
and treasure, and unless the bodies politic will exert themselves 
to bring things back to first principles, correct abuses, and punish 
our internal foes, inevitable ruin must follow. Indeed we seem 
to be verging so fast to destruction, that I am filled with sensa- 
tions to which I have been a stranger, till within these three 
months. Our enemy behold with exultation and joy, how ef- 
fectually we labor for their benefit, and from being in a state of 
absolute despair and on the point of evacuating America, are 
now on tiptoe. Nothing, therefore, in my judgment, can save 
us, but a total reformation in our conduct, or some decisive turn 
to affairs in Europe. The former, alas ! to our shame be it 
spoken ! is less likely to happen than the latter, as it is now 
consistent with the views of the speculators — various tribes of 
money makers — and stockjobbers of all denominations, to con- 
tinue the war for their own private emolument, without consider- 
ing that their avarice and thirst for gain must plunge everything 
(including themselves) in one common ruin. 

Were I to indulge my present feelings and give a loose to 
that freedom of expression which my unreserved friendship for 
you would prompt me to, I should say a great deal on this sub- 
ject. But letters are liable to so many accidents, and the senti- 
ments of men in office sought after by the enemy with so much 
avidity, and besides conveying useful knowledge (if they get into 


their hands) for the superstructure of their plans, are often per- 
verted to the worst of purposes, that I shall be somewhat re- 
served, notwithstanding this letter goes by private hand to Mount 
Vernon. I cannot refrain lamenting, however, in the most 
poignant terms, the fatal policy too prevalent in most of the 
States, of employing their ablest men at home in posts of honor 

. or profit, till the great national interests are fixed upon a solid 
basis. To me it appears no unjust simile to compare the affairs 
of this great continent to the mechanism of a clock, each State 
representing some one or the other of the smaller parts of it, 
which they are endeavoring to put in fine order, without consid- 

. ering how useless and unavailing their labor, unless the great 
wheel or spring which is to set the whole in motion, is also well 
attended to and kept in good order. I allude to no particular 
State, nor do I mean to cast reflections upon any one of them — 
nor ought I, it may be said, to do so upon their representatives ; 

but as it is a fact too notorious to be concealed, that C is 

rent by party — that much business of a trifling nature and per- 
sonal concernment withdraws their attention from matters of 
great national moment at this critical period — when it is also 

' known that idleness and dissipation takes place of close attention 
and application, no man who wishes well to the liberties of his 
country, and desires to see its rights established, can avoid crying 
out : Where are our men of abilities ? Why do they not come 
forth to save their country ? Let this voice, my dear sir, call 
upon you, Jefferson, and others. Do not, from a mistaken 
opinion, that we are about to sit down under our own vine and 
our own fig tree — let our hitherto noble struggle end in ignominy. 
Believe me when I tell you there is danger of it. I have pretty 
good reasons for thinking, that [the] administration a little while 
ago had resolved to give the matter up, and negotiate a peace 
with us upon almost any terms ; but I shall be much mistaken 
if they do not now, from the present state of our currency, dis- 
sentions, and other circumstances, push matters to the utmost ex- 
tremity. Nothing, I am sure, will prevent it, but the interposition 
of Spain and their disappointed hopes from Russia. 

I thank you most cordially, for your kind offer of rendering me 
service. I shall without reserve, as heretofore, call upon you 
whenever circumstances occur that may require it, being with the 


sincerest regard, dear sir, your most obedient and affectionate 
humble servant, 

Go. Washington. 
George Mason, Esq., Gunston Hall.' 

The preceding letter of Washington's presents a gloomy 
picture of American affairs as seen through the eyes of the 
anxious commander-in-chief. Since the battle of Monmouth 
the previous June, there had been no important engagement. 
The army was in winter quarters in New Jersey. Washing- 
ton had spent five weeks in Philadelphia, in consultation 
with Congress, and a defensive campaign had been resolved 
upon. The party dissensions in Congress had impressed 
Washington most unfavorably, and he urged it upon George 
Mason that it was his duty, as it was that of the patriots in 
general, to come to the aid of the Confederation in their 
Congress rather than to remain in the State legislature. 
Washington had written in a similar strain to Benjamin 
Harrison the previous December, using the image which 
appears in the letter to Colonel Mason, comparing the 
political system to the mechanism of a clock. And this 
favorite figure is repeated in a letter to Archibald Carjr 
some years later. " I cannot help asking," writes Wash- 
ington to Harrison, " where are Mason, Wythe, Jefferson, 
Nicholas, Pendleton, Nelson, and another I could name ? " * 
Congress was about to lose another eminent Virginian. 
Richard Henry Lee sent in his resignation at the May 
session of the Assembly, confessing his disgust in a letter to 
Jefferson, having been persecuted, as he declared, " by the 
united voice of toryism, speculation, faction, envy, malice, 
and all uncharitableness.'* He hopes that he will not be 
blamed for this step, but he thinks he is powerless alone to 
do any service. " It would content me, indeed," he adds, 
'' to sacrifice every consideration to the public good, that 

> '* Virginia Historical Register/' vol. v., p. 96. Bancroft's " History of the 
Constitution," vol. i., Appendix, 281. 
* " Life and Writings of Washington," Sparks, vol. vi., p. 150. 



would result from such persons as yourself, Mr. Wythe, Mr. 
Mason, and some others being in Congress ; I would struggle 
with persevering ardor through every difficulty in conjunc- 
tion with such associates.** * 

The following letter from Colonel Mason to Richard 
Henry Lee, thanking him for letters of introduction to be 
used by his son, George Mason, Jr., in France, is full of 

GuNSTON Hall. April la, 1779. 
Dear Sir : 

I am much obliged to you for the letters you sent my son 
George. He sailed last week for Cadiz, in a fine sloop, mount- 
ing eight carriage and ten swivel guns. His present plan is to 
go from Cadiz up the Straits, in some neutral bottom with a 
Mediterranean pass, to Toulon or Marseilles, and as he will 
probably not go to Nantes (at least for some considerable time) 
he will forward your letter to your son, post paid from Cadiz ; 
unless some vessel is going from thence to that part of France. 
When I wrote to you this sloop was intended for Holland, but 
her destination was changed. 

I observe, by a late publication. Congress expects Great 
Britain will carry into execution her threats of a predatory vin- 
dictive war. I have no objection to the Fast they have recom- 
mended ; these solemnities, if properly observed, and not too 
often repeated, have a good effect upon the minds of the people ; 
and if ever there was a national cause in which the Supreme 
Being could be safely and confidently appealed to, ours is one ; 
but at the same time, no necessary measure on our part should 
be omitted. I can not but think it would have good effects if a 
manifesto was published upon the occasion, and a particular 
recommendation to the different States of the Union to cause 
exact accounts and valuations to be made of all the private 
property which the British forces shall wantonly destroy, or the 
devastations they may make contrary to the practice and custom 
of civilized nations ; that compensation may be demanded, 
whenever a negotiation shall take place, and if refused, that the 
damage may be levied upon Great Britain by duties upon what- 

» •• Life of R. H. Lee," by Richard H. Ue, vol. ii.. p. 45. 


ever trade she may at any time hereafter carry on with the 
United States. — Being warned that her mischief must one day 
fall upon her own head, may be a means of restraining her, and at 
any rate it is a piece of justice due to the sufferers. 

I see the Maryland Declaration upon the subject of confedera- 
tion, and their modest claim to part of the back lands, after 
skulking in the dark for several months, has at last made its 
appearance : it has confirmed me in an opinion I have long had, 
that the secret and true cause of the great opposition to 
Virginia's title to her chartered territory was the great Indian 
purchase between the Obache and the Illinois Rivers, made in 
the year 1773 or 1774, in which Governor Johnston and several 
of the leading men in Maryland are concerned with Lord Dun- 
more, Governor Tryon, and many other noblemen and gentle- 
men of Great Britain. Do you observe the care Governor 
Johnston (for I dare say the Declaration is his manufacture) has 
taken to save this Indian purchase. In the explanatory articles 
which the Maryland Assembly require before they will accede to 
the Confederation, after reserving the back lands as a common 
stock to the United States, is the following exception : '^ not 
granted to, surveyed for, or purchased by individuals at the com- 
mencement of the present war." Were Congress to declare that 
every purchase of lands heretofore made, or hereafter to be 
made of any Indian nation, except by public authority and upon 
public account should be void, it would, in my opinion, be more 
effectual, upon this subject, than all the argument in the world. 
Had the British ministry employed a Mansfield or a Wedder- 
burne to have managed the matter they could not more effectu- 
ally have pleaded the cause of Great Britain than this Declara- 
tion has. In the year 1744 when the Canada Bill was passed by 
the British Parliament, the bounds of that province were ex- 
tended so as to include the whole country between the Ohio and 
the Mississippi Rivers ; this being before the rupture between 
Great Britain and her colonies, the Parliament's authority to 
pass such a bill cannot be impeached upon any other ground 
than the right of some of the old colonies to that country by 
their charters. Aware of this and to prevent giving too great an 
alarm, a clause of exception was inserted, saving to any of the 

colonies the territory within their respective charters; but the 


Declaration, denying the right of any of the States by their 
charters, if it proves anything, proves that all that country is 
part of the British province of Canada ; and unless the United 
States conquer Canada by force of arms, what claim have we 
upon it, or what arguments could we urge in a negotiation with 
Great Britain, for curtailing the bounds of Canada, as settled by 
the Canada Bill, but that the country they included was part of 
the chartered territory of the other colonies, at the time the said 
bill passed, and the consequences of suffering the bounds of 
Canada to remain, in that extended manner, surrounding great 
part of the United States, are too obvious to mention. 

We have no news, except that report says things are going 
badly to the southward, but of the state [of affairs] I presume 
Congress has authentic accounts. It is highly probable that the 
enemy's view is to trail our main army by a long and painful 
march to the Southern part of the United States ; but I think we 
had better risk anything that can happen there than make such an 
experiment. I sincerely wish you health and happiness, and am, 

Dear sir. 
Your affectionate friend and servant, 

G. Mason." 

The plan Colonel Mason proposes for retaliatory measures 
on the enemy, he elaborated later in a letter to be submitted 
to Congress. His shrewd observations on the articles of the 
Maryland Assembly, and the consequences that could be 
drawn from their stipulations, merit special attention. The 
Articles of Confederation were finally signed in this year by 
Maryland, the last State to accede to them. 

The Virginia Assembly met on the 3d of May, 1779, and 
both George and Thomson Mason were delegates. The 
latter was elected from Elizabeth City County ; and having 
after his election changed his residence, he sent in his resig- 
nation, but the House would not accept it.* At the foUow- 

* Mason Papers. 

' William C. Rives, in a letter to one of Thomson Mason's descendants, refers 
to this action of the Assembly as " a most emphatic homage to the value of his 
public services, such an one as was rendered afterwards in the case of Mr. 


ing session, Thomson Mason still finding it inconvenient to 
attend the Assembly, resorted to the expedient of accepting 
nominally the appointment of coroner, by which means his 
seat in the House was vacated. The first mention of George 
Mason in the journal of the Assembly occurs on the 17th 
of May, when he was made chairman of a committee to 
prepare a bill '* for ascertaining the losses and requiring 
retribution to the citizens of this commonwealth for depre- 
dations of the enemy on private property." " He was also 
added to the committees to prepare a bill for establishing a 
land-ofHce, and to prepare one for the better regulation and 
disciplining of the militia. Two days later Colonel Mason, 
Jefferson, and others were appointed a committee to bring 
in a bill for settling the rate of exchange and mode of 
judgments on foreign debts, which bill was presented to the 
House by Colonel Mason on the 15th of June. On the 31st 
of May, the Speaker laid before the House a letter from the 
Virginia delegates in Congress, enclosing certain proceedings 
of the Assembly of Maryland respecting the Confederation, 
which papers were read and referred to a committee con- 
sisting of Jefferson, George Mason, and three others. 

The ballot for governor was taken on the ist of June, 
and Jefferson was elected in the place of Patrick Henry. 
George Mason was one of a committee of three appointed 
to notify the new governor of the vote of the Assembly. 
Colonel Mason was on this day added to the Committee 
of Propositions and Grievances. The memorial of Penet, 
Wendall, & Co. was presented to the House on the 2d. 
setting forth that having agreed with Congress for estab- 
lishing a manufactory of artillery and small-arms in some 
one of the States of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and 
Jersey, they have determined on this State, and asking cer- 
tain advantages may be afforded them by the legislature 
upon terms and conditions therein expressed. The com- 
mittee of fourteen to whom the memorial was referred 
included Colonel Mason, Patrick Henry, Tyler, General 

' Journal of the Assembly. 


Nelson, and other prominent members of the House. On 
the 4th of June the House went into Committee of the 
Whole on the state of the Commonwealth, and resolutions 
were passed respecting aliens, citizenship, and the sale of 
confiscated property. The committee appointed to bring 
in the bills for these purposes consisted of Charles Carter, 
George Mason, Patrick Henry, and five others. Jeflferson 
takes the credit of this measure. He says : 

*' Early in the session of May, 1779, I prepared and obtained 
leave to bring in a bill declaring who should be deemed citizens, 
asserting the natural right of expatriation, and prescribing the 
mode of exercising it. This, when I withdrew from the House 
on the I St of June following, I left in the hands of George 
Mason, and it was passed on the 26th of that month." ' 

On the 8th and 9th of June, the House discussed the claim 
of the Indiana Company, and the following resolutions 
were passed, and were carried to the Senate by George 
Mason : 

^^ Resolved^ that the Commonwealth of Virginia hath the ex- 
clusive right of a pre-emption, from the Indians, of all lands 
within the limits of its own chartered territory, as declared by 
the act and constitution of government in 1776, that no person 
or persons whatsoever have, or ever had, a right to purchase any 
lands within the same from any Indian nation except only per- 
sons duly authorized to make such purchases on the public 
account, formerly for the use and benefit of the colony, and 
lately of the Commonwealth ; and that such exclusive right of 
pre-emption will and ought to be maintained by this Common- 
wealth to the utmost of its power. 

** Resolved^ that every purchase of lands heretofore made by 
the King of Great Britain from any Indian nation or nations 
within the before-mentioned limits doth and ought to enure for 
ever to and for the use and benefit of this Commonwealth, and to 
and for no other purpose whatsoever. 

'< Resolved therefore^ that the deed from the Six United Nations 
of Indians, bearing date on the third day of November, 1768, for 

' Jefferson's " Works," vol. i., p. 40. 


certain lands between the Alleghany Mountains and the river 
Ohio, above the mouth of the little Kanawha Creek, to and for 
the use and benefit of a certain William Trent, gentleman, in his 
own right, and as attorney for sundry persons in the said deed 
named, as well as all other deeds which have been or shall be 
made by any Indian or Indians, or by any Indian nation or 
nations, for lands within the limits of the charter and territory 
of Virginia as aforesaid, to or for the use or benefit of any 
private person or persons shall be and the same are hereby de- 
clared utterly void, and of no effect." ' 

This is all that appears in the journal in regard to the 
case of the Indiana Company. It was managed, on the part 
of the Assembly, by Colonel Mason, who, in a letter written 
in the latter years of his life, gives his recollections of the 
matter. In the November session, 1 791, Morgan's claim 
was brought forward, and a final effort made by the com- 
pany to overturn the Virginia settlement, and George Mason 
wrote to a member of the House in response to a request 
for information on the subject : 

'* I have searched all my papers endeavoring to find my former 
argument in the Assembly, when I was appointed to collect the 
evidence and manage this business on behalf of the common- 
wealth, which (if I could have found it) would have given the 
fullest information, but I imagine I must have lent it to some 
member of the Assembly, who has never returned it ; and con- 
ceiving the matter, after so full an investigation and positive 
determination as it then had, forever at an end, I was the less 
careful in preserving my notes and papers. Several depositions 
were then produced, and some witnesses examined at the bar of 
the House, proving the mysterious and clandestine conduct of 
Sir William Johnston (the King's agent) at the treaty at Fort 
Stanwix, when the Indiana Company obtained their deed from 
the Indians. The council books were also produced, in which 
were many entries, previous to the Indiana Company's purchase, 
for lands much further to the westward. The Indiana Com- 
pany's deed from the Indians was set aside, and a declaratory 

' Jonmal of the Assembly. 


act passed upon the subject, as well as my memory serves me, in 
the May session of 17791 principally upon the following points : 

'' First, the purchase of the same lands from the Six Nations 
of Indians^ at the Treaty of Lancaster, in the year 1740, for the 
use of Virginia, and paid for with our money. The book con- 
taining the records of this treaty and the deed of purchase was 
then produced, but I have understood has been since destroyed, as 
well as all the other Indian treaties, made here under the King's 
government, with the books and papers of the council and of the 
Committee of Safety, when General Arnold's troops burned the 
foundry at Westham in which they had been placed upon the 
enemy's marching towards Richmond. 

'' Second, because the Six Nations, who originally claimed the 
lands by conquest, had lost their title (even if they had not sold 
them at the treaty of Lancaster) by the same means by which 
they first gained it — conquest — their tributaries and tenants, the 
Shawnese and Delewares, with a mixture of the Six Nations, 
having been expelled and driven over the Ohio (from whence 
they never returned), and the lands on this side the Ohio con- 
quered in the war, which happened a little before the Indiana 
Company's purchase. 

"Third, independent of the above reasons, the deed to the 
Indiana Company, by the law of Virginia ought to have been re- 
corded (like all other deeds) either in the county where the land 
lay, as in Augusta, which was the then frontier county of Vir- 
ginia, or in the general court. That for the want of this, the 
deed, if there had been no other objection, was void as to all 
subsequent purchasers, and that the settlers upon the land under 
Virginia titles, of which there were a great many before the deed 
was recorded in Augusta, were, in the equitable construction of 
the law, to be considered as purchasers. 

'^ Fourth, because the consideration of the deed was a compen- 
sation to the Indian traders for the losses they had suffered, and 
it was thought they had no more right to require compensation 
than a merchant who had his ship taken by an enemy's privateer, 
or any other sufferer in the common calamities of war. 

'^ Fifth, because the traders to whom the Indian deed was 
named, being everyone of them citizens of Pennsylvania, from 
which this trade with the Indians was carried on, if they had 


been entitled to compensation at all, ought to have had such 
compensation out of the lands within the chartered territory of 
Pennsylvania, for whose benefit the trade had been carried on, 
by her own citizens, and not out of the lands of Virginia ; and 
this appeared in the strongest, or if I may be allowed the expres- 
sion, more barefaced point of view, as Pennsylvania had, at that 
same treaty of Fort Stanwix, made a large purchase from the 
Indians of land within her own charter. I presume the legisla- 
ture cannot regularly give any decision in favor of the Indiana 
Company without repealing the before mentioned declaratory 
act, and the consequences of such a repeal may extend much 
farther and produce effects which may not at first be foreseen. 
Among other things it would certainly open a door to the revival 
of Col. Henderson's and Company's claim to Kentucky, nor can 
any man tell where it would end." ' 

It is interesting to compare George Mason's account with 
the report of his argument made by one of the company 
whose claims he opposed. He was appointed, we are here 
told, with another gentleman who did not act, '' to manage 
the interests of the Commonwealth of Virginia, upon this 
occasion, and the substantial parts of his chief arguments (as 
taken in writing by a gentleman who attended the House, 
William Trent, Esq., Member of the House of Assembly of 
New Jersey) were as follows : Col. Mason insisted greatly 
upon political expediency. . . . Col. Mason also insisted 
that the Commonwealth of Virginia had the right of pre- 
emption of all lands within its chartered boundaries. . . . 
Col. Mason next insisted that the King had a right only to 
purchase as a trustee for the use of the State of Virginia, 
and the sale to the proprietors of Indiana was bad, as it was 
made to foreigners. ... It was urged likewise by Col. 
Ma^on that the Treaty of Lancaster confirmed by that of 
Loggs Town, transferred to the King the lands for the use 
of the State of Virginia. ... It was further insisted upon 
by Col. Mason that if the House of Delegates gave .up the 
Treaty of Lancaster they would furnish the neighboring 

' Mason Papers. 


States with the best arguments for a share in our back lands^ 
therefore it is expedient that this treaty should be supported 
as the interests of the State are concerned in it ; and the 
only way to prevent other States from claiming the back 
lands would be to insist thoroughly on the right of pre- 
emption. Col. Mason next insisted that countenancing the 
grant to the proprietors of Indiana would exclude a fund 
which might be secured to the State by the sale. . . . Col. 
Mason concluded his arguments against the proprietors of 
Indiana, by saying: ' If we have in this case deviated from 
the rules of strict distributive justice, the salus populi to 
which I have so often referred in this House, has been the 
incitement, and it has been expedient for the good of the 
Commonwealth.' He then moved the House to come to 
certain resolutions, and June the 17th, 1779, the Legislature 
of Virginia passed a law respecting the right of pre-emption, 
and therein declared the title of the proprietors of Indiana 
to be utterly void and of no effect.** ' 

The periods in the text indicate the space taken up by 
the counter arguments of the pamphleteer. And as the 
report of George Mason's argument is that of one interested 
in refuting it, the notes are neither as fair nor as full as they 
might have been. Especially is the conclusion attributed to 
Colonel Mason to be taken with suspicion. 

In his preface to the fifth volume of the " Virginia Calen- 
dar Papers," Mr. Sherwin McRae refers to the deposition of 
Patrick Henry given in the Henderson case at Williamsburg, 
June 4, 1777,* as affording a striking picture of the great 
power for mischief of these companies. And he ascribes to 
Henry's course in the first Virginia Convention, and in the 
first Continental Congress in opposition to the land com- 
panies, an overwhelming influence on the leading men of the 
State : '^ The public virtue which George Mason saw in his 

> *' Plain FacU, A Vindication of the Grant of the Six Nations to the Pro- 
prietors of Indiana against the Decision of the Legislature of Virginia." Phila.» 
1781. An anonymous tract, attributed by some writers to Benjamin Franklin. 

* *' VirginU Calendar Papers," vol. i. 


first conversation with Mr. Henry was Virginia's shield," 
writes the editor of the " Calendar Papers." With at least 
equal propriety this eulogy might be applied to George 
Mason, the chosen champion in the Legislature of Virginia 
of her rights in this matter. Throughout his public career 
he steadfastly opposed the pretensions of the land com- 
panies, and to his exertions their overthrow was finally 

Other work of George Mason's in the Assembly at this 
time was a bill for discouraging extensive credits and repeal- 
ing the act prescribing the method of proving book debts. 
He was also one of a committee of three to bring in a bill 
constituting the court of appeals, and for giving salaries to 
certain officers of government. The petition of John Bal- 
lendine in regard to the navigation of the James was 
referred to a committee of ten, of which Colonel Mason was 
chairman. He was also appointed to prepare a bill '' declar- 
ing and asserting the rights of the commonwealth concerning 
purchasing land from the Indian natives." On the day 
before the closing one of the session, June 25th, Colonel 
Mason reported from the committee to whom the memorial 
of Penet & Co. had been referred, accepting their proposal, 
giving them an interest in the canal, foundry, and other 
works belonging to the public on James River. They were 
to have also three thousand acres of land and a place proper 
for a furnace, together with a coal mine, and were to 
examine plans on both sides of the James River for these 
works, other than Mr. Ballendine's. They expected to be 
reimbursed for their expenditure by a speedy importation 
of arms and military stores, and contracted for an annual 
supply of cannon and small-arms after the completion of 
their works. George Mason also reported on the petition 
of John Ballendine, desiring that the government appoint 
proper persons to adjust matters between the Common- 
wealth and Mr. Ballendine, and cause the contracts entered 
upon to be carried into speedy execution.' 

^ Journal of the Assembly. 


Richard Henry Lee wrote to Colonel Mason on the 9th 
of June, and Mason replied on the 19th. Lee enters at 
length into a discussion of the corruptions of the time. He 
had resigned his seat in Congress, as has been said, much 
dissatisfied with its course, and he was prepared to take as 
pessimistic a view of public affairs as that expressed by the 
commander-in-chief. The measures he urges upon the Vir- 
ginia Assembly, through his friend, were carried out, in great 
part, no doubt, through the latter's exertions. 

Chantilly, June 9th, 1779. 
Dbar Sir : 

I am much obliged to you for your favor of the 4th, but greatly 
concerned for your state of health. The force of party and 
the power of fortune it seems to me, are leagued to distress if 
not to ruin America. There never was a time when the fullest 
exertion of ability and integrity was more necessary to rescue us 
from impending ills. The inundation of money appears to have 
overflowed virtue, and I fear will bury the liberty of America in 
the same grave. Believe me. Sir, it is not from improper despon- 
dence that I think in this manner. Look around you, do you 
anywhere see wisdom and integrity, and industry prevail either 
in council or execution ? The demon of avarice, extortion, and 
fortune-making seizes all ranks. And now, to get into office is 
another thing for getting into wealth on public funds and to the 
public injury. I well know that much of this will in all countries 
take place in time of war, but in America, unfortunately at this 
time, nothing else is attended to. And such is the state of 
things, so unequally is this mass of money distributed, that I 
assure you my apprehensions are great that this heavy tax will 
come with crushing weight on great numbers of honest, indus- 
trious men, whilst a number of others who have amassed thou- 
sands by illicit means will not feel the burthen. I hope some 
method will be fallen on to make the tax touch the speculators, 
monopolists, and those people concerned in staff departments of 
commissary, quartermaster, &:c., &:c. who have acquired vast 
wealth on very pernicious principles. In choosing the executive 
officers of government, integrity, ability, and industry must be 
attended to, or we are inevitably ruined. The millions we issue 


are with such profusion wasted, that they produce only heavy 
taxes without good to the community. This I apprehend arises 
from want of wisdom, diligence, or integrity somewhere. In 
truth there is so little attention paid to the expenditure of the 
public money, and the public accounts are so irregularly settled, 
or rather not settled at all, that it affords opportunities and gives 
temptation to men not truly moral to venture on bad practises in 
hopes of impunity. To me it appears of indispensable necessity 
that instructions be given to your delegates in Congress in terms 
peremtory and express that they move Congress, and never 
cease to urge it, that the most immediate and effectual settle- 
ment be made of all public accounts, calling to strict account all 
those who have been entrusted with public money, admitting 
not of evasive and dilatory pleas. That they have ready to lay 
before the Assembly, at its next meeting their proceedings herein, 
and if it is not done, the reasons why. I mean this latter part, 
in order to prevent those kind of put offs and go byes which I 
have seen so very often practised. 

There is another point on which I think instructions greatly 
necessary, because I apprehend abuse has already taken place 
to considerable extent, and may, if not prevented, go much 
further. It is to prevent the practise of delegates from any 
State, and more particularly one delegate from any State, from 
obtaining from Congress money on the credit of the State he or 
they come from without the orders of that particular State. In 
time, when death or bankruptcy shall have removed delegates or 
incapacitated them, these grants may be refused by the States, 
or some of them, and public discord and confusion be the result. 
This practise began originally upon the necessity members were 
under of getting money due to them for wages to support their 
necessary expenses, and so far as that, strictly confined there, 
nothing ill would have resulted. But I have reason to think it 
has been carried much further. Your treasurer should be ordered 
to remit the wages of the delegates in due season, and the prac- 
tise of taking money from the Continental treasury without 
express order be totally inhibited. If necessity compelled, why, 
then, there was no resisting the measure, but it does seem strange, 
that when the quantity of money in circulation has almost 
stopped its currency and introduced universal corruption of 


manners, which hath obliged the laying of a most weighty tax, 
that our Assembly should order a million of pounds to be 
emitted. I greatly fear the effect of this, as well in reality, as 
from the operation it will have on the apprehensions of men in 
the other States ! 

It is, I think, to be feared, that the enemy's late success in this 
State will encourage other visits, and behooves us both in the 
deliberative and executive departments, to be as well prepared in 
every respect as possible to prevent the like success on their part 
and injury on ours. The first thing is to remove temptation by 
never suffering stores of any kind to be collected in considerable 
quantities near where troops may be landed from vessels pro- 
tected by ships of war. Where the enemy want provisions and 
wish to destroy our means of defence, surely magazines of pro- 
visions and of warlike stores ought to be places the most secure. 
It appears to me that expensive fortifications are not the thing. 
Mere batteries to protect vessels against small sea force is all of 
this kind that can for the present be attempted with propriety 
and success. Extreme mismanagement has, I suppose, alienated 
our minds from our true, just and natural defence by vessels of 
war. I think it may be demonstrated that eight gallies on our 
part and six on that of Maryland, well-manned, fitted and com- 
manded, carrying thirty-two and twenty-four pounders, and con- 
structed as were the Congress gallies built at Philadelphia, would 
with ease bafHe the attempts of such a force as came here last. 
This is a kind of movable battery which proceeding with the 
enemy would disappoint them, whilst forts on land will be avoided 
when the foe is weak and always fall when they are strong. And 
these forts, under the idea of strength delude men to make col- 
lections which they otherwise would not, and which tempt an 
enemy to come for plunder where they would not otherwise visit 

On the subject of public accounts and public expenses. Dr. 
Lee in a late letter to Congress : *' Indeed there has been hitherto 
such licentiousness suffered in the conduct of our affairs, that 
these gentlemen [meaning Ross, Williams, &c., &c., &c.] seem to 
think it both an affront and injustice to be called upon for a clear 
and unequivocal account of the expenditure of the public money. 
It seems clear to me that if all the millions expended are thus 
accounted for, the burthens and poverty of the public will increase 


with the opulence of individuals^ and soon become intolerable." 
This is a melancholy truth. Squire Lee will show you a copy of 
a letter to this very Ross, whom Braxton writes so prettily about, 
from the commissioners by which you may judge how he is going 
on. This man has had more than 400,000 livres of France ad- 
vanced him by Deane, besides remittances from America. He is 
one of the commercial league on public funds. 

As this is a safe opportunity, I enclose you the State papers 
you desired me to get, and at your leisure be pleased to let me 
have a copy as I have not had time to take one. I rejoice gp'eatly 
at the news from South Carolina. God grant it may be true. If 
this should force the enemy to reason and to peace, would you 
give up the navigation of Mississippi and our domestic fishery on 
the banks of Newfoundland ? The former almost infinitely 
depreciating our back country and the latter totally destroying 
us as a maritime power. That is taking the name of indepen- 
dence without the means of supporting it. If you have any news 
and time to write it I pray you to do so, and excuse this long 
trespass on your patience and your business. 

I am most affectionately yours, 

Richard Henry Lee.' 

WiLUAMSBURO June xgth, 1779. 
Dear Sir : 

Col. Layota coming to pay you a visit at Chantilly, gives me an 
opportunity of informing you not of the news but of the dearth 
of news at this place. All our pleasing accounts from Charles 
Town, I fear are vanished into nothing, at least nothing that can 
be depended on. 

The great business of the legislature goes on heavily, the mem- 
bers inattentive, tired and restless to get away. In this situation 
of things, you will know what sort of investigation the most im- 
portant subjects are likely to have, and that reason and sound 
argument will have little avail. The Indiana Company's title, 
after two or three days' debate, and every effort within and with- 
out doors, to support it, is rejected : and an act passed, in the 
most explicit terms, firmly asserting the Commonwealth's exclu- 
sive right of pre-emption from the Indians, within our own 

' Mison Papers. 


territory, declaring that all deeds or cessions heretofore made to 
the Crown shall inure to the use and benefit of the Common- 
wealthy and that all deeds which have been or shall be made by 
the Indians, for the separate use or benefit of any person or 
persons whatever, are void and of no effect. 

The Land Office bill, upon very proper principles, and a bill 
for settling the titles of claimers under the former government, 
have passed the House of Delegates, and are now before the 
Senate. What alterations they may undergo I know not, but 
some to the latter bill, made yesterday in the committee by the 
Senate, at the instance of their Speaker, are very absurd and 
unjust ; they are to be reported to-morrow, and as the old bruiser 
will then have his mouth shut in the chair, perhaps they may be 
set right. My charter rights I believe will be established, and 
my location preserved to me, upon resurveying the same lands, 
that is upon putting a considerable sum of money out of my 
pocket into the county surveyor's, for the State will not gain a 

copper by it. Our friend B n and some others did everything 

they could to invalidate them. 

The Ohio Company were not permitted a special investigation 
of their claim, obliged to submit to the description in a general 
bill, and thus in fact denied a hearing, and yet every attempt 
that art or cunning could suggest, made to introduce particular 
words to exclude them. I have spared no trouble, nor omitted 
anything in my power to procure them justice ; the only chance 
now left, is to get their claim referred to the Court of Appeals, 
and to preserve to them the right of their location, by resurvey- 
ing the same lands, if their claim shall be established upon a 
hearing before the said court, and in this I have still hopes of 
succeeding : two days more will determine it. 

The principal bills still before our House are upon the subjects 
of the militia invasion, or insurrection ; raising troops for the 
immediate defence of the Commonwealth ; settling the real and 
personal estates of British subjects and lodging the proceeds in 
the public treasury, subject to the further order of the General 
Assembly ; naturalization ; ascertaining the damage done by 
the enemy on private property that compensation may in due 
time be demanded, or levied by exclusive duties on the British 
trade with us at anytime hereafter; on the mode of proving 
book debts and discouraging extensive credits ; and on the 


more effectual manner of supplying our troops with the articles 
necessary for their comfortable accommodation, and prevent- 
ing embezzlement. Most of these bills now stand committed. 
Whether the House will have patience to go through them all 
is uncertain ; I fear not, many members declaring that they will 
stay no longer than next Saturday, at all events, and some that 
they will go away sooner. We should not have had a House 
now, but for a little piece of generalship. I got our friend Mr. 
Page to undertake procuring an order that the clerk should 
grant no certificate to any member for his wages until the Assem- 
bly should have adjourned, unless upon leave of absence. Some 
of the fellows threatened, and kicked, and struggled, but could 
not loosen the knot. We are endeavoring to digest a scheme 
for laying a tax on specific commodities, which I think will 
have more effect in preventing the further depreciation of our 
money, than anything we have done or can do besides. 

We have had Mr. Pinet [Penet] and Co.'s memorial several 
days before a select committee, the members of which seem well 
inclined to encourage so important an undertaking ; if this can 
properly be said of men who are too indolent to attend to anything. 
The committee have met, or rather failed to meet, at my lod- 
gings every morning and evening for this fortnight. Ballendine 
has got possession of the key to the navigation of James River, 
and is acting exactly the part of the dog in the manger. I am 
very uneasy about it, and fearful nothing decisive will be done, 
and the gentlemen left in doubt and disgust. I have got pretty 
well over my late fit of the gout, but remain in a very indifferent 
state of health, to which vexation has not a little contributed. 

I had almost forgot to inform you of our new election of mem- 
bers to Congress ; it is indeed a disagreeable subject, for in my 
opinion (except our late governor who I hardly think will serve 
and Gabriel Jones) we never had so bad one. I enclose you a 
list of them, and I think you will hardly blame me for taking 
care in time to keep out of such company. 

I beg to be kindly remembered to our friend Parker, and am 
with my compliments to your lady and family, dear Sir, 
Your affectionate friend and servant, 

G. Mason.* 

> Lee Papers, University of Virginia. Published in part in Southern UUrary 
Messtnger^ October, 1858. 


The device of Colonel Mason to keep the members in 
their seats recalls a somewhat similar incident related of 
Samuel Adams. In the Provincial Congress of Massachu- 
settSy 1774, when the vigorous measures of Adams alarmed 
the timid and time-serving, some of them pleaded sickness 
as an excuse to leave, and in order to stop these desertions, 
Samuel Adams proposed that on their return to their con- 
stituents they should inform the latter that they were no 
longer represented, so that other members could be elected. 
This suggestion had the desired effect.' 

Colonel Mason speaks his mind freely to his friend in the 
above letter, and it is evident that he had much to struggle 
against in the Assembly in carrying out his purposes. To 
the Speaker of the Senate, Col. Archibald Cary, he gives a 
pugilistic title, which doubtless ** Old Iron '' would have 

taken as a compliment. " B n " is evidently meant for 

Carter Braxton. And there is a passage in Edmund Ran- 
dolph's history, which, it seems not unlikely, has reference to 
Colonel Mason and the opposition of Braxton to his claim, 
with the triumph of the former over his adversary. No names 
are mentioned, but it is of this session of the Assembly and 
the passage of the laws establishing a land-office that Ran- 
dolph is writing, and he tells of " a member of the Assembly 
who was honorably interested in charter importation rights," 
and of the scheme of another member to thwart him : 

'* The other, sensible that a direct attack upon them [the charter- 
rights] would be too gross, assaulted the surveys, by which they had 
been located upon particular rich lands, for some mistake in form. 
Upon which a vote was obtained declaring them to be void. 
Elated by this victory, and poorly versed in the subject, this hunter 
after formal defects, did not see the force of a small amendment 
in a part of the bill, remote from the clause which had been de- 
feated. Thus justice was protected by dexterity . . . thus 
an impotency of character cheats itself with a momentary flash 
of triumph, and teaches us not to confide in a legislator who 
does not view the whole ground and persevere to the last, as the 
same consequences might have followed in a better cause." ' 

> WeUcs' " Life of Samuel Adams/' vol. ii., p. 252. * MS. History of VirginU. 




During the summer of 1779 two military achievements at 
the North cheered the hearts of patriots throughout the 
country. These were the successful expedition of Wayne 
against Stony Point on the Hudson in July, and the cap- 
ture of Paulus Hook (Jersey City) by " Light-Horse Harry" 
Lee in August. At the South the British were overrunning 
Georgia and South Carolina, and when the Vii^inta As- 
sembly met in October, it was shortly after the failure of the 
siege of Savannah then held by the enemy. 

George Mason had written Richard Henry Lee while in 
the May Assembly of a scheme he and his associates were 
" endeavoring to digest," which was for " laying a tax on 
specific commodities," and he looked forward to its good 
eflects in preventing the further depreciation of the Vir- 
ginia currency. He seems to have taken the matter in band 
during the summer, and when the Assembly met again in 
October he had the bill ready to bring forward. John Parke 
Custis, then a delegate from Fairfax County, wrote to 
Washington, October 26th, from " Mount Vernon," making 
this reference to the subject 

" Our neighbor, Colonel Mason, is preparing a remedy against 
the depreciation of our money, which I think will do him great 
credit. He is preparing a bill for a general assessment on all 
property, by which he will draw in ^5,000,000 per annum. His 
valuation of property is very low, which will render his plan very 


agreeable to the people. He has, likewise, a plan for recruiting 
our army, which I think a very good one ; but I am fearful they 
will not succeed, by his not attending the Assembly which met 
last Monday. He proposed to set off this day ; but as it is 
a rainy day he will be disappointed. I wish he may set off when 
the weather will permit ; his attendance in Assembly is of the 
greatest importance to this State, as it was never so badly repre- 
sented as at present." ' 

The Assembly met on Monday, October 4, 1779, and 
John Parke Custis must have written his letter on or before 
the nth, the Monday after, as he says the Assembly met 
" last Monday." The date of his letter is therefore incor- 
rectly given as the " 26th October." George Mason took 
his seat in the House on Friday the 15th, and probably 
contemplated leaving home on the previous Monday, but 
was detained by bad weather. The committee was at this 
time named for bringing in the important bill '* concern- 
ing religion," and George Mason and Patrick Henry were 
among its sixteen members. On the i6th a writ was 
issued for the election of a new delegate from Elizabeth 
City County in the room of Thomson Mason, "who 
hath accepted a coroner's commission."' Colonel Mason 
was placed upon several committees, and a number of 
bills were brought in by him in rapid succession. On the 
1 8th he presented one for providing a great seal for the 
commonwealth, and directing the lesser seal of the common- 
wealth to be affixed to all grants for lands, and to commis- 
sions civil and military. The seal was to be the same as 
directed in the Convention of 1776, " save only that the 
motto on the reverse be changed to the word Perseverandoy * 
George Mason presented also, on this same day, a bill for 
discouraging extensive credits, and prescribing the method 
of proving book debts. He was placed, at the same time, 
on committees to bring in a bill for regulating ordinaries 

■ " Recollections of Washington/' G. P. Custis, Appendix, p. 563. 

* Journal of the Assembly. 

* Hening's ** Sututes," vol. x. 


and restraint of tippling-houses, and a bill to establish 

General Nelson, on the following day, reported from the 
Committee of Propositions and Grievances, of which George 
Mason was also a member, a certain "grievance" of Dr. 
William Savage, whose brig was lying in Quantico Creek in 
the summer of 1776, when its sails were seized and taken 
possession of for the use of the Potomac navy, by order of 
George Mason and John Dalton, acting for the Committee 
of Safety. The act for the annual appointment of delegates 
to Congress was to be amended, and Henry, Nelson, Mason, 
and others were of the number to prepare the bill. A charge 
brought against some of the sheriffs of the counties for 
breach of trust, and misapplying the money received in 
taxes, lending it to private individuals to lay out in the 
land-office, was to be investigated, and Colonel Mason was 
chairman of the committee appointed for this purpose. A 
bill for regulating the importation of salt, and laying an 
embargo thereon for a limited time, was entrusted to a com- 
mittee of three — Page, Mason, and Baker. The committee 
for preparing a bill to establish courts of assize consisted of 
John Taylor, George Mason, and ten others, among whom 
was Patrick Henry. And Colonel Mason was one of a com- 
mittee of nine who were to amend the act establishing the 
Board of War. On the 23d he was made chairman of a 
committee of six, who were to bring in a bill for marking 
and opening a road over the Cumberland Mountains into 
the county of Kentucky, and this bill was presented by 
Colonel Mason four days later. He was placed on a com- 
mittee, on the 26th, to bring in a bill for appointing com- 
missioners to ascertain the value of lands throughout this 
State. And about the same time he was appointed on a 
committee to prepare a circular-letter to the several counties 
of the State on the subject of taxation. 

On the 1st of November the House went into a Committee 
of the Whole on the state of the commonwealth, and passed 
the following important resolution : " That all attempts to 


possess lands within this State, without the countenance of 
law, are violent infringements of the rights of this common- 
wealth, and should be prevented by prompt exertion/'* 
George Mason was one of a committee of five to whom was 
assigned the duty of preparing a bill in conformity to this 
resolve. A motion to bring in a bill suspending the opera- 
tion of the act for removing the seat of government to Rich- 
mond, passed in the negative. George Mason voted in favor 
of the motion, which would seem to show that he preferred 
the old capital to the new one. This was the last Assembly 
held in Williamsburg. A bill for encouraging the importa- 
tion of salt was consigned to a committee of three, of whom 
George Mason was one. The bill for the better regulation 
and discipline of the militia was put off until the May ses- 
sion, a procrastinating measure against which Colonel Mason 
recorded his vote. On the 8th of November, the bill con- 
cerning claims to certain waste or unappropriated lands, 
which had been before the committee of the whole House, 
was referred, together with a memorial of the commissioners 
for settling and adjusting the titles of claimers to unpatented 
lands in the counties of Yohoghania, Monongalia, and Ohio, 
to a committee of six, on which Colonel Mason was the 
member named after the chairman, John Taylor. George 
Mason was appointed, on the following day, chairman of a 
committee to bring in a bill for regulating and collecting 
certain officers' fees, and for other purposes ; and a bill con- 
cerning tobacco fees. The House on the loth appointed by 
ballot a Committee of Ways and Means, of which Colonel 
Mason was made chairman. 

On the 13th, in Committee of the Whole House on the 
state of the commonwealth, the following resolution was 

^'That a remonstrance be drawn up to the Honorable, the 
American Congress firmly asserting the rights of this Common- 
wealth to its own territory, complaining of their having received 
petitions from certain persons styling themselves the Indiana and 

' Journal of the Assembly. 


Vandalia Companies, upon claims which not only interfere with 
the laws and internal policy, but tend to subvert the government 
of this commonwealth, and introduce general confusion ; and 
expressly excepting and protesting against the jurisdiction of 
Congress therein, as unwarranted by the fundamental principles 
of the Confederation." 

Munford, Mason, and Henry were appointed a committee 
to prepare the remonstrance. On the loth of December 
George Mason reported from the committee appointed to 
prepare a Remonstrance to Congress on the subject of the 
Indiana and Vandalia claims and the proceedings of Con- 
gress thereon. The Remonstrance was read and agreed to, 
and Colonel Mason carried it to the Senate for their concur- 
rence.* It bears date December 14th, when it was forwarded 
to Congress. 

Remonstrance to Congress, 

** December 14, 1779. 

" The General Assembly of Virginia ever attentive to the recom- 
mendations of Congress and desirous to give the great council of 
the United States every satisfaction in their power, consistent 
with the rights and constitution of their own commonwealth, 
have enacted a law to prevent present settlements on the north- 
west side of the Ohio river, and will on all occasions endeavor 
to manifest their attachment to the common interest of America, 
and their earnest .wishes to remove every cause qf jealousy and 
promote that mutual confidence and harmony between the dif- 
ferent States so essential to their true interest and safety. 

" Strongly impressed with these sentiments, the General Assem- 
bly of Virginia cannot avoid expressing their surprise and concern, 
upon the information that Congress had received and counte- 
nanced petitions from certain persons styling themselves the Van- 
dalia and Indiana Companies, asserting claims to lands in defiance 
of the civil authority, jurisdiction and laws of this common- 
wealth, and offering to erect a separate government within the 
territory thereof. Should Congress assume a jurisdiction, and 
arrogate to themselves a right of adjudication, not only unwar- 



ranted by, but expressly contrary to the fundamental principles 
of the Confederation ; superseding or controlling the internal 
policy, civil regulations, and municipal laws of this, or any other 
State, it would be a violation of public faith, introduce a most 
dangerous precedent which might hereafter be urged to deprive of 
territory or subvert the sovereignty and government of any one or 
more of the United States, and establish in Congress a power which 
in process of time must degenerate into an intolerable despotism. 

" It is notorious that the Vandalia and Indiana Companies are 
not the only claimers of large tracts of land under titles repug- 
nant to our laws ; that several men of great influence in some of 
the neighboring States are concerned in partnerships with the 
Earl of Dunmore and other subjects of the British King, who 
under purchases from the Indians, claim extensive tracts of 
country between the Ohio and Mississippi rivers ; and that 
propositions have been made to Congress evidently calculated to 
secure and guaranty such purchases ; so that under colour of 
creating a common fund, had those propositions been adopted, 
the public would have been duped by the arts of individuals, 
and great part of the value of the unappropriated lands converted 
to private purposes. 

'* Congress have lately described and ascertained the boundaries 
of these United States, as an ultimatum in their terms of peace. 
The United States hold no territory but in right of some one 
individual State in the Union : the territory of each State from 
time immemorial, hath been fixed and determined by their 
respective charters, there being no other rule or criterion to 
judge by ; should these in any instance (when there is no dis- 
puted territory between particular States) be abridged without 
the consent of the States affected by it, general confusion must 
ensue ; each State would be subjected in its turn to the encroach- 
ments of the others, and a field opened for future wars and 
bloodshed ; nor can any arguments be fairly urged to prove that 
any particular tract of country within the limits claimed by 
Congress on behalf of the United States, is not part of the char- 
tered territory of some one of them, but must militate with equal 
force against the right of the United States in general ; and tend 
to prove such tract of country (if north-west of the Ohio river) 
part of the British province of Canada. 


" When Virginia acceded to the articles of confederation, her 
rights of sovereignty and jurisdiction within her own territory 
were reserved and secured to her, and cannot now be infringed 
or altered without her consent. She could have no latent views 
of extending that territory ; because it had long before been 
expressly and clearly defined in the act which formed her new 
government. The General Assembly of Virginia have heretofore 
offered Congress to furnish lands out of their territory on the 
north-west of the Ohio river, without purchase money, to the 
troops on continental establishment of such of the Confederated 
States as had not unappropriated lands for that purpose, in con- 
junction with the other States holding unappropriated lands and 
in such proportion as should be adjusted and settled by Con- 
gress ; which offer when accepted they will most cheerfully 
make good to the same extent, with the provision made by law 
for their own troops, if Congress shall think fit to allow the like 
quantities of land to the other troops on continental establish- 
ment. But although the General Assembly of Virginia would 
make great sacrifices to the common interest of America, (as 
they have already done on the subject of representation,) and 
will be ready to listen to any just and reasonable propositions for 
removing the ostensible causes of delay to the complete ratifica- 
tion of the Confederation, they find themselves impelled by the 
duties which they owe to their constituents, to their posterity, 
to their country, and to the United States in general, to remon- 
strate and protest ; and they do hereby, in the name and on 
behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia, expressly protest 
against any jurisdiction or right of adjudication in Congress, 
upon the petitions of the Vandalia or Indiana Companies, or on 
any other matter or thing subversive of the internal policy, civil 
government, or sovereignty of this or any other of the United 
American States, or unwarranted by the articles of the Confed- 
eration." ' 

There is no doubt that Colonel Mason was the author of 
this valuable paper, reported by him to the Assembly. He 
would naturally be selected as the fittest person to prepare 
it, as his management of the cases of the Henderson and 

' Hening's ** Statutes/' vol. x., p. 537. 


Indiana Companies, for the Commonwealth of Virginia, had 
made him familiar with the whole controversy. And the 
Remonstrance bears internal evidence that it proceeded 
from the same pen that drew up other papers and letters on 
the subject, bearing George Mason's signature. A tribute 
is paid to the Remonstrance by Hinsdale, who in his 
valuable work on the northwestern territory, makes a full 
acknowledgment of Virginia's title. Referring to the several 
land claims of Virginia, Connecticut, and New York, he 
says : 

" Particular attention should be drawn to the bearing of the 
question with which we are dealing on the national boundaries. 
Virginia states the point with great force in her remonstrance ; and 
it is perfectly clear in the light of the facts already presented^ 
that a denial of the western titles on the grounds that the west- 
em lands belonged to the Crown, tended to subvert the very 
foundation on which Congress instructed its foreign representa-^ 
tives to stand while contending with England, France and Spain 
for a westward extension to the Mississippi." ' 

Colonel Mason's views in regard to disestablishment may 
be traced in his action during this session on the several 
bills relating to religion brought forward. While in favor 
of religious liberty, and desirous that the Anglican Church 
should stand on the same footing as other denominations,, 
he wished to secure to the Church her property, and believed 
in no system of ecclesiastical spoliation. He was made 
chairman of two committees of three : the one to bring in 
a bill for repealing the act of Assembly which provided for 
the payment of the salaries heretofore given to the clergy 
of the Church of England (repeated at every session), and 
the other to prepare a bill for saving and securing the prop- 
erty of the Church, heretofore by law established. Colonel 
Mason was also at this time appointed one of a committee 
to prepare a bill concerning orphans and legatees. He 
made a report from the committee appointed to inquire into 

1 Hinsdale's '* Old Northwest/' p. 215. 


the conduct of the delinquent sheriffs ; and on the same 
day, November 17th, reported from the Committee of Ways 
and Means in regard to the bill to amend the act concerning 
escheats and forfeitures from British subjects. On the fol- 
lowing day George Mason was appointed to prepare a bill 
for ascertaining the loss and requiring retribution for the 
depredations of the enemy on private property, which bill 
he presented the same day. On the 27th he presented the 
bill to prevent the misapplication of the money collected 
for taxes by the sheriffs, and a bill for settling the rate of 
exchange and mode of judgments on foreign debts. He 
also reported from the Committee of Ways and Means 
certain economical regulations in relation to widows of 
soldiers who had died in the service of the United States or 
of Virginia. 

On the 29th of November the House in Committee of the 
Whole came to the following resolution : " That the civil and 
military establishments of the Illinois ought to be aug- 
mented and supported, and that the Governor be empowered 
to procure a credit in New Orleans for that purpose ; and 
that this House will make good and provide proper funds 
for the fulfilling any engagements that he, with the advice 
of the Council, may enter into, to answer that desirable 
end." * This was referred to a committee of six, of which 
General Nelson was named chairman, and George Mason 
was second on the list of members. On the following day 
fifteen resolutions were passed by the House, in relation to 
the troops, the navy, and other matters of importance, and 
two committees were appointed to prepare the bills required. 
Colonel Mason being placed on both of them. On the loth 
of December the Remonstrance to Congress was reported, 
as has been said ; and on the nth. Colonel Mason from the 
Committee of Ways and Means reported several resolutions 
in reference to the requisitions of Congress, which were 
referred to the Committee of the Whole House on the state 
of the commonwealth. Resolutions in regard to taxes and 

' Journal of the Assembly. 


duties passed by the House were referred to the Committee 
of Ways and Means to be shaped into bills. Colonel Mason, 
from this committee, reported on the i6th certain reso- 
lutions reached by them, concerning the supplies necessary 
for the State expenditure. The following day he presented 
a bill for raising a supply of money for the service of the 
United States. * The preamble states : 

" Whereas the Continental Congress, impelled by the exigencies 
of a war, the object of which is civil liberty, have demanded 
supplies from the United States, adequate to the annual expendi- 
ture, whereby the ruinous expedient of future emissions of paper 
money will be avoided ; and since this State is bound by its own 
interest, and by the faith of freemen, so often, and so solemnly 
pledged, to support the glorious cause with their lives and their 
fortunes ; since taxation alone can obviate that embarrassment 
in finance, which is now the last hope of the enemy ; and since 
one of two alternatives, between which no friend to his country 
can hesitate, is unavoidable ; either to support the common 
cause by taxation, or after having lavished so much blood and 
treasure, to submit to an humiliating, inglorious and disadvan- 
tageous peace ; in order, therefore, to comply with the said 
requisitions, supported by justice and warranted by necessity, be 
it enacted, &c."* 

The additional duties were a poll tax, a tax on slaves, on 
carriages, on .merchandise, and on liquors, foreign and 

Other bills prepared by George Mason at this time were 
two in relation to finance ; a bill providing a farther supply 
for the exigencies of government, and one for establishing a 
fund to borrow money for the service of the United States 
and for other purposes. This act appropriated five eighths 
of a tax in tobacco as a fund for borrowing £^fiOOfiOO upon 
interest, the other three eighths of the amount of taxes to 
be collected by this act were to be reserved for purchasing 
military stores, etc. ' Colonel Mason also brought in a bill 

" Ibid, • Hening's *• SUtutcs/' vol. x. » IHd. 


to confirm the titles of purchasers of escheated and forfeited 
estates. On the 21st he was made chairman of a committee 
of five to prepare a bill in relation to the treasurer, allowing 
him one eighth per cent, on all monies brought into the 
treasury on any subsequent loans in consequence of the 
sales of British property, etc. Friday, Christmas Eve, was 
the last day of the session. The House in committee on the 
state of the commonwealth came to several resolutions, 
attesting their realization of the gravity of the military 
situation at this time. They provided for calling out the 
militia, for the defence of York, and for measures to be 
taken in case of invasion. These resolutions were carried 
to the Senate by George Mason. 

The following resolve of the House recalls the passage on 
this subject in the letter from Richard Henry Lee to Colonel 
Mason, and was evidently penned by the latter, who carried 
it to the Senate : 

" That it be an instruction to the Virginia delegates in Con- 
gress to use their endeavors to procure a settlement of public 
accounts since the commencement of the present war, stating the 
expenditure of each year under distinct heads ; that they give 
the strongest assurances to Congress of the cheerfulness with 
which Virginia will bear her share of the burthen of the present 
war, until it shall please the Supreme Disposer of events to grant 
us peace upon safe and honorable terms ; and that although the 
General Assembly hath made provisions for complying with the 
demands of Congress to the utmost extent of their requisitions, 
yet they cannot help observing with very great concern, that no 
account of expenditures, or of the application of the public 
money, has ever yet been laid before them ; and also that Con- 
gress be informed they do insist upon it as their right and of 
justice due to the Commonwealth, that an account and estimate 
of future requisitions for the service of the United States, distin- 
guished under their proper heads, ought to be annually trans- 
mitted to the General Assembly." 

The Assembly before adjourning gave expression to their 
views as to the encroachments of Congress on the rights of 


the States. They transmitted to the Virginia delegation a 
resolution setting forth their alarm at the assumption of 
power lately exercised by Congress in resolutions respecting 
the price of provisions, etc. They admitted the right of 
Congrress to recommend measures to the States, but they 
contended that the States alone could judge of their utility 
and expediency, either approving or rejecting them. And 
Virginia could not submit to the declaration which would 
make any State answerable for not agreeing to the recom- 
mendations of Congress, as this '' would establish a danger- 
ous precedent against the authority of the legislature and 
the sovereignty of the separate States.** * 

Turning aside from Colonel Mason*s public to his private 
life, an important event marks its records in the spring of 
1780. This was his second marriage. The following are 
the marriage articles : 

*< Articles of Agreement indented, made, concluded and agreed 
upon this day of April, Anno Domini, one thousand seven 
hundred and eighty, between George Mason of Gunston Hall in 
the Commonwealth of Virginia, Esquire of the one part, and 
Sarah Brent of the town of Dumfries in the commonwealth 
aforesaid of the other part. 

'' Whereas a marriage, by God*s permission, is shortly to be 
had and solemnized between the said George Mason and Sarah 
Brent, they the said parties, in consideration thereof, do mutually 
covenant, promise, and agree in manner and form following, 
videlicet : 

" Imprimis^ that immediately upon the said indented marriage 
taking effect, the possession and use of all and every of the 
slaves belonging to the said Sarah Brent shall be vested in the 
said George Mason and be held by him during the coverture ; 
and in case there is no issue of the said marriage, living at the 
time of its dissolution by the death of either of the said parties, 
then the said slaves and their increase shall return to the said 
Sarah Brent, and the absolute property thereof be vested in her 
and her heirs, or such person or persons as she shall devise the 
same to by her last will and testament. 

' Jonmal of the Assembly. 


^ Item, — That in case the said Sarah Brent shall survive the 
said George Mason, and there shall be no issue of the said mar- 
riage living at the time of his death ; in that case the said Sarah 
Brent shall be put into possession of 400 acres of the said George 
Mason's land in Dogue Neck in Virginia, and hold the same 
during her natural life, in lieu and in full satisfaction of her 
dower and legal share of and in the said George Mason's estate 
real and personal. But in case the said Sarah Brent shall sur- 
vive the said George Mason, and there shall be issue of the said 
marriage living at the time of his death, then the above agree- 
ment and every part thereof shall be utterly void to all intents 
and purposes as if the same had never been made ; and in that 
case the said slaves and their increase shall be considered as 
part of the said George Mason's estate and the absolute property 
thereof be vested in him and his heirs ; and the said Sarah Brent 
shall be entitled, as his widow, to her dower and legal share of 
and in the said George Mason's estate both real and personal, 
anything herein contained to the contrary notwithstanding. In 
witness whereof the said George Mason and Sarah Brent have 
hereunto set their hands and seals the day and year above 
written." * 

In the Gunston family Bible there is this notice of the 
marriage in Colonel Mason's handwriting : 

" George Mason of Gunston Hall in Fairfax County, Virginia, 
aged about fifty-four years, and his second wife Sarah Brent, 
daughter of George Brent, Esq., of Woodstock, in the county of 
Stafford, aged about fifty years, were married on Tuesday, the 
eleventh day of April, in the year 1780, by the Rev. Mr. James 
Scott, Rector of Dettingden parish in the county of Prince 
William in Virginia." 

The name of Brent, it will be remembered, has early 
associations with the Mason family, in connection with the 
border warfare that preceded Bacon's Rebellion. Sarah 
Brent, the second wife of George Mason of Gunston, a lady 
of amiable and domestic character, was fourth in descent 
from Col. George Brent, the friend and neighbor of Col. 

* Mason Papers. 


George Mason, the ex-cavalier. Robert Brent, a brother of 
Mrs. Mason, married into the Carroll family of Maryland^ 
and his son, George Brent, a captain in the Revolution* 
represented Stafford County in the Virginia Assembly. 
One of Mrs. Mason's sisters married James Douglas, a 
relative of the Duke of Douglas, and spent her latter years 
in Scotland with her husband's family. Another sister, Jane 
Brent, married Richard Graham, who like James Douglas 
was one of the Scotch merchants settled in Dumfries. And 
a son of Jane Graham married the widow of George Mason 
of " Lexington," Colonel Mason's eldest son.* 

The General Assembly met at Richmond on the 9th 
of May, 1780. Richard Henry Lee was in the House at 
this time, and he and George Mason were conspicuous in 
their support of the measure proposed by Congress, to call 
in all the old State and Continental bills and re-issue notes at 
the rate of one dollar for forty of the old money. Patrick 
Henry took the lead in opposition to this plan of Congress. 
Colonel Mason was tardy in his attendance at this session, 
and it is not until the 22d of May that his name appears in 
the journal of the House. On this day it was ordered that 
the Committee of Ways and Means, appointed on the 19th 
and consisting of nine members, among whom were Gen- 
eral Nelson, Richard Henry Lee, and Patrick Henry, should 
be increased by the addition of one other member, to be 
appointed by ballot. The new member elected was George 
Mason. On the same day Colonel Mason was added to the 
committee to prepare a bill " for the more general diffusion 
of knowledge." 

A committee of three, consisting of Mason, Henry, and 
Tazewell, was appointed on the 23d to prepare a bill for 
repealing part of the act for sequestering British property, 
enabling those indebted to British subjects to pay off such 
debts, and directing the proceedings in suits where such 
subjects are parties, which bill, prepared by Colonel Mason, 
passed the same day. On the 24th of May a motion was 

> MS. Book of the Brent Family. 


made, by Colonel Mason it would seem, that an address 
be sent to the Virginia delegates in Congress. This address, 
which after a third reading was agreed to netnine contra" 
dicente^ and carried by George Mason to the Senate for its 
concurrence, set forth the alarming condition of affairs in 
South Carolina, and the danger of North Carolina, the 
evident design of the enemy in this campaign appearing to 
be the conquest of the Southern States. The General 
Assembly, as the address asserted, was making every exer- 
tion to raise and send forward a body of militia, "but 
conscious that such aid alone will not only be ineffectual, 
but too slow in its operation ; and considering the present 
general attack by the Indians on their western, and the 
prospect of an immediate invasion on their eastern frontier, 
in repelling which a great part of their militia will necessarily 
be employed ; they think it their duty to call the attention 
of Congress to this important object, and earnestly to con- 
jure them without delay, to adopt the most effectual means 
of defending and maintaining the Southern States, which 
the General Assembly of Virginia apprehend cannot be 
effected, but by a farther speedy and powerful reinforce- 
ment of Continental troops, and a supply of arms for the 
North Carolina militia, to whom the government of Virginia 
hath already furnished all it is able to spare." ' 

Virginia was then truly, in size and importance, the empire 
State of the American Confederacy. But much of her terri- 
tory was scantily peopled, and the war had crippled her 
resources. On her western borders she had to guard against 
the Indian foe, who were in alliance with the British, and 
on the east she was wellnigh defenceless against the British 
fleets in her navigable waters. And now the States south 
of her were invaded, making her situation one of still greater 

Turning again to the journal of the House, we find 
Colonel Mason appointed on the committee to amend the 
act for reviving several public warehouses for the inspection 

' Journal of the Assembly. 


of tobacco. He also prepared a bill to enable the sheriff of 
the county in which the General Court may sit to summon 
a grand jury. On the ist of June the House, in Committee 
of the Whole on the state of the commonwealth, came to 
several resolutions for meeting the public emergencies. In- 
formation had reached them from Congress of authentic 
intelligence that a powerful land and naval force was ex- 
pected in North America to act with the Continental troops 
against the common enemy. But the exhausted state of 
the Continental treasury prevented Congress from acting 
with sufficient vigor in directing the movements of the army. 
A supply of money was required from Virginia of over a 
million dollars for replenishing the treasury. The House 
proposed, among the extra means to raise this sum, that 
subscriptions be requested from members of the Assembly 
and from gentlemen in the country and towns adjacent, and 
advances of money and tobacco. Colonel Mason carried 
these resolutions to the Senate, and it is more than likely 
therefore that they were drafted by him. Five days later 
Colonel Mason made the following report from the Commit- 
tee of Ways and Means. In order to provide provisions and 
arms necessary for the militia and troops " in the present 
alarming and critical situation of the .war with a powerful 
enemy," they proposed that commissioners be appointed in 
all the counties eastward of the Alleghany Mountains, to 
examine into the state and quantity of provisions in posses- 
sion of every person and family, and after allowing them 
what was necessary for their support, to seize the surplus for 
the public use, giving certificates to the owners to be paid 
by the public at their real value at the time the same shall 
have been delivered. This resolution passed the House and 
the Committee of Ways and Means was instructed to prepare 
the necessary bill. 

The House at this time took action in regard to the plan 
of Congress, proposed in March, for reviving public credit. 
Nearly two hundred millions of dollars had been issued, 
none of which had been redeemed, and forty paper dollars 


were now worth only one in specie. The House in Committee 
of the Whole resolved : " That ample and certain funds ought 
to be established for sinking the quota of the continental 
debt due from this State in ten years " ; an amendment 
passed substituting fifteen for ten years. But a second 
amendment was defeated. This was, to strike out from the 
word " that *' to the end of the resolution, and to insert, 
"the act of Congress of the 1 8th March last ought to be 
adopted, that this Commonwealth will take upon itself its 
due proportion of the one hundred and eighty millions of 
dollars issued by Congress, and recommended to be speedily 
called in by taxes or otherwise ; and that , the General 
Assembly will redeem or call in the same, and also establish 
certain funds for the redemption of this Commonwealth's due 
proportion of the new money to be issued in lieu thereof, in 
the manner and time proposed by Congress, as far as the cir- 
cumstances of this Commonwealth will admit." The vote 
was fifty-nine to twenty-five against this amendment, George 
Mason and Richard Henry Lee voting for it and Patrick 
Henry against it. Another amendment proposed shared 
the same fate. This was, to add to the end of the resolution 
as amended by the substitution of fifteen for ten years, the 
following : 

''But there having been so general and great depreciation in the 
said paper money issued by Congress, that for many months past 
it hath, by common consent, been circulated, paid and received at 
rates not exceeding one-fortieth part of the value of gold and 
silver, whereby the public debt hath been nominally increased to 
such an enormous sum as renders it impracticable to discharge 
the same at the value expressed in the bills ; and it is unreason- 
able and unjust that the good people of this Commonwealth, or 
of the other United States, should be burthened with grievous 
and oppressive taxes, to appreciate the said money to so much 
higher value than the present money holders have received it for, 
Resolved^ that in the payment of the taxes for the redemption 
thereof, one Spanish silver dollar ought to be received for forty 

of the said paper dollars, and other silver and gold coins in the 


same proportion ; and that so much of this Commonwealth's 
quota of the said paper money as shall remain outstanding at the 
end of the said fifteen years ought to be discharged in gold or 
silver coin at the same rate." ' 

The vote as recorded here also shows George Mason and 
Richard Henry Lee on the side of the amendment. It is 
very probable that George Mason drafted both of these 
resolutions that were intended to carry out the measure 
advocated by Congress. And it is known that Colonel 
Mason strove earnestly to Influence the Assembly in its 
favor. But he and his allies saw themselves temporarily 
defeated, through the opposition of Patrick Henry. And 
for two weeks the subject was dropped, to be taken up 
again and brought to a different issue. The House passed 
resolutions, that certain funds ought to be established for 
furnishing to the Continent the quota of this State, for the 
support of the war for the current year, and that a specific 
tax ought to be laid for the use of the Continent, in full pro- 
portion to the abilities of the people, and the Committee of 
Ways and Means was ordered to prepare the bills. On the 
8th of June Colonel Mason reported from the above com- 
mittee a bill for procuring an inimediate supply of provisions 
and other necessaries for the use of the army. Important 
resolutions were passed by the House on the following day, 
investing the governor and council with full powers to call 
forth the force and resources of the State against the 
enemy ; providing that one million of pounds be emitted for 
the present purposes of the war; and that certain funds 
ought to be established, at the next session of the Assembly, 
and applied to the redemption of the money to be emitted 
for the present purposes of the war in fifteen years. 

On the 22d of June, two weeks after the defeat of the 
measure sustaining the action of Congress, the House in 
Committee of the Whole passed the following resolution : 
'' That this Commonwealth will concur with a majority of 


the United States, in adopting and carrying into execution 
the resolves of Congress of the 1 8th of March last, as 
far as the circumstances of the people, and the present 
situation of public affairs will admit." George Mason was 
made chairman of the committee of eleven to whom was 
consigned the preparation of the required bill. The vote on 
this occasion stood fifty-two to thirty-four.* By patience 
and perseverance Mason and Lee had gained their object, 
and the Assembly reversed its former decision. Edmund 
Randolph says of this contest over the resolves of Con- 
gress : 

" George Mason and Richard Henry Lee advocated them as 
being the only expedient remaining for the restoration of public 
credit. Patrick Henry poured forth all his eloquence in opposi- 
tion ; but proposed nothing in their place. He disseminated, 
however, the jealousy which has smce been denominated anti- 
federal, and stated some precise objections to the plan as being 
incompetent upon its own principles. . . . For a time this 
scheme of Congress was negatived. Omnipotent as Henry was 
while present and exerting himself in the Assembly, he had one 
defect in his politics. He was apt to be contented with some 
general vote of success, but his genius did not lead him into de- 
tail. For a debate on grand, general principles he was never 
surpassed here, but more laborious men who seized occasions of 
modifying propositions, which they had lost on a vote, or of 
renewing them at more fortunate seasons, often accomplished 
their purpose, after he had retired from the session. In this 
instance, the perseverance of Mason and Lee, introduced in 
Henry's absence the same resolutions, and they were carried into 
a law." • ^ 

Mr. Lyon G. Tyler in his sketch of Judge Tyler adopts 
the same view, as to the change effected on this occasion in 
the vote of the House, ascribing it chiefly to the fact that 
Patrick Henry was not present when the subject was again 
brought up.' It would seem, however, more reasonable to 

» JHd. « MS. History of Virginia. 

' ** LeUers and Times of the Tylers,** vol. i., p. 74. 


suppose that in the fortnight's, interval the sentiment of the 
House had reached a conclusion which was recommended to 
the judgment of the whole country, and had been supported 
in the Assembly by the arguments and oratory of two of its 
leading members. 

On the 30th Colonel Mason presented the bill for calling 
in and redeeming the money now in circulation, and for 
emitting and funding new bills of credit, according to the 
resolutions of Congress of the i8th of March last.' The 
preamble is as follows : 

" Whereas the just and necessary war into which the United 
States have been driven, obliged Congress to emit bills of credit 
before the several States were sufficiently organized to enforce 
the collection of taxes, or funds could be established to support 
the credit of such bills ; by which means the bills so emitted 
soon exceeded the sum necessary for a circulating medium, and 
consequently depreciated so as to create an alarming redundancy 
of money, whereby it is become necessary to reduce the quantity 
of such bills ; to call in and destroy the excessive mass of money 
now in circulation ; and to utter other bills, on funds which shall 
ensure the redemption thereof. And whereas the certain conse- 
quences of not calling in and redeeming the money now in 
circulation in the depreciated value at which it hath been gener- 
ally received, would be to encrease the national debt thirty-nine 
times greater than it really is, and consequently subject the good 
people of this Commonwealth to many years of grievous and 
unnecessary taxation. And since Congress by their resolutions 
of the 1 8th March last have called upon the several States to 
make proper provision for the purposes aforesaid, be it there- 
fore enacted, &c." • 

The House at this session agreed to the boundary between 
Virginia and Pennsylvania, as arranged at Baltimore by com- 
missioners from the States in August, 1779. Another 
subject having reference to a neighboring State claimed 
the attention of the Assembly at this time. On the 4th 
of July a motion was made that the House agree to the 

> Journal of the Assembly. ^ Hentng's ** Sututes," vol. x. 


following resolutions. And as Colonel Mason was made 
chairman of the committee of six to whom the resolutions 
were referred^ it is probable that he was the mover of them : 

'' The General Assembly of Virginia, having at a former ses- 
sion, proposed to the neighboring Commonwealth of North 
Carolina to pass mutual laws, for securing real property to the 
owners, whether claimed by title of record or actual settlement, 
who on running the late boundary line might be found not to be 
in the State they settled under, and wishing to establish a princi- 
ple for abolishing all local distinctions between States in one 
Union whose citizenship is or ought to be reciprocal, have ob- 
served with great pleasure that the legislature of North Carolina 
have in part closed with their proposition by passing a law 
October, 1779, for the purpose of establishing titles by actual 
settlement. But by a subsequent law, the operation of the first 
act is suspended until their next session ; in order to do justice 
between patentees under this government and mere actual settlers 
claiming the same land ; as it is doubtful whether the said paten- 
tees are in the said first law provided for ; as a speedy decision 
of the matter would quiet the minds of men immediately inter- 
ested therein, which it is hoped the Assembly of North Carolina 
will give at their next session ; and that they may have all neces- 
sary information on the subject. 

" Resolved^ That it be represented to the Assembly of North 
Carolina that there were under the regal government several modes 
of gaining a title to lands, none of which became complete except 
by the obtaining a patent written on parchment and signed by the 
Governor for the time being ; that a claim to unappropriated 
lands was only supportable between the time of entry, and the 
time of obtaining such patent, after which the title of the patentee 
became indefeasible, unless by another patent of prior date ; that 
no title by settlement was recognized under said former govern- 
ment, such title being first established by a resolution of Conven- 
tion, May 24, 1776 ; which declared that all persons settled on 
any unlocated or unappropriated lands to which there was none 
other just claim, should have the pre-emption or preference in 
the grant of such lands, but that this resolution could never have 
retrospect so as to defeat prior patentees ; and thus prove so in- 


jurious to fair purchasers ; neither can lands before patented come 
within the description of unlocated or unappropriated. This As- 
sembly find themselves, therefore, impelled by every motive of 
law and justice warmly to solicit the Assembly of North Carolina 
to establish the several titles to lands under their former proposi- 
tion, and must also inform the said Assembly that patentees and 
purchasers under them have a right, by the laws of this State, to 
a preference to all other claims ; and that a deprivation of this 
right would involve several fair and bona fide purchasers in un- 
merited loss, since they could never have foreseen that which was 
thought to be impossible, to-wit : that a title under an express 
patent might be defeated. They will further observe, also, that 
a certificate from the register of the Land Office, is the legal mode 
of fixing the authenticity of patents. The Assembly of Virginia 
again profess their willingness, on being informed of the ultimate 
determination of the Assembly of North Carolina, to meet them 
on the most liberal ground, and to do everything on their part 
that right may take place therein." 

The House then resolved that the treasurer be required to 
forbear receiving money for the purchase of any waste or un- 
appropriated lands, except upon certificate of settlement or 
pre-emption rights until the further orders of the General 
Assembly therein ; and George Mason carried this resolution 
to the Senate. 

On the 6th of July it was ordered that the Committee of 
Ways and Means to whom the petitions of the merchants 
had been referred be discharged from the duty of preparing 
bills upon them, and this work was assigned to a committee 
of three — Richard Henry Lee, George Mason, and one other 
member. Colonel Mason, four days later, presented a 
bill for giving further powers to the governor and council ; 
and at the same time he was made chairman of a com- 
mittee of eleven, who were to prepare a bill " for emit- 
ting and funding a sum of money for supplying the 
present urgent necessities of this Commonwealth.'* The 
motion to consider a bill '' to revise and amend the several 
tender laws which have been passed in this Common- 
wealth " was defeated, and it was put ofT until the Octo- 


ber session, George Mason and Richard Henry Lee voting 
against this motion for delay. On the nth the House 
in Committee of the Whole made several amendments 
to the bill for giving further powers to the governor and 
council ; and when a motion was made and lost that the 
clause enforcing martial law in case of invasion be struck out, 
Mason and Lee both voted in the negative. Resolutions of 
the House that the delegates of Virginia in Congress be de- 
sired to transmit quarterly accounts, were carried to the 
Senate by Colonel Mason, and at the close of the session he 
presented the bill for emitting and funding a sum of money 
for supplying the present urgent necessities of the common 
wealth, and a bill amending the act for raising a supply 
of money for the use of the United States and for other 

It will be seen that Colonel Mason took a very prominent 
part in the work of this session, and might indeed be called 
its leading spirit. And we learn from a letter of his to Joseph 
Jones, then in Congress, written shortly after the Assembly 
closed, that George Mason's exertions and influence helped 
to bring to a conclusion the settlement of the boundary ques- 
tion between Virginia and Pennsylvania, which had been 
long in dispute. Colonel Mason believed that his own State 
was giving up some of her just rights, but his desire to heal 
.dissensions and strengthen the union led him to counsel 
acceptance of the agreement notwithstanding. The same lib- 
eral temper was manifested in his attitude on the subject of 
the cession of the Northwestern Territory. Joseph Jones, a 
prominent member of Virginia's delegation in Congress, had 
written to George Mason to ascertain his views on this mat- 
ter, and in Colonel Mason's reply he gives what is believed 
to be the first fully digested plan of the cession, as it was 
subsequently carried out. The manuscript was found among 
the Bland papers, and is signed simply by the writer's initials. 
In a letter to Madison, however, Colonel Mason alludes to 
this communication, so there can be no doubt as to its 

* Journal of the Assembly. 


July 27th, 1780. 

The agreement of the commissioners from the two States, for 
settling the dispute of territory between Virginia and Pennsylva- 
nia, by fixing the line commonly called Mason and Dixon's line 
as the southern boundary of Pennsylvania, and from the termina* 
tion of five degrees, of west longitude, on the said line, to be 
computed from the Delaware river, extending a meridian line for 
the western boundary of Pennsylvania, has been at last ratified by 
our Assembly, on condition that the titles of individuals within 
the disputed territory should be confirmed according to their pri* 
ority, whichever State they were acquired under ; that the inhabi- 
tants shall remain free from taxes until December next, and shall 
not be chargeable with arrears. Justice demanded the first of 
these, to which I think there can be no objection on the part of 
Pennsylvania, unless suggested by the private views of some great 
landmongers ; and good policy, I hope, will induce her to assent 
to the whole, to conciliate the affections of her new citizens, with- 
out which she will find herself involved in a very disagreeable 
business with these people. 

I think it the duty of a staunch whig, and friend to his country, 
* to do everything in his power to remove any cause of ill will or 
disagreement with a sister State ; and therefore (though I clearly 
saw from the proceedings that our commissioners had been over- 
matched by those of Pennsylvania) I labored the ratification 
of the agreement, as heartily as I ever did any subject in my life. 
There was so strong an opposition that we were able to carry it 
only by a small majority ; for this reason, and from my attach- 
ment to the common cause of America, I sincerely wish the dispute 
may now be closed, and not remitted again to our Assembly. You 
will observe from a clause in the resolve that we have not been 
influenced by pecuniary motives, in the annexed conditions. 

If you will cast your eye upon the late maps, you will perceive 
that the five degrees of longitude from the Delaware, will extend 
Mason and Dixon's line within twenty or thirty miles, perhaps 
less, of the Ohio ; and that between the meridian line or western 
boundary of Pennsylvania and the river there will remain a long 
narrow slip of land, so detached from Virginia as to be of little 
value to her, unless she retains her territory on the north-west of 
the Ohio. 


Nothing has been moved in our Assembly respecting our west- 
em territory since the remonstrance to Congr^s, nor do I think 
there will be shortly, unless there are some propositions from 
Congress on the subject ; but I am sure the most judicious men 
in our legislature, and the firm friends to American independence, 
are well disposed for the sake of cementing our union, and ac- 
celerating the completion of the Confederation, to make great 
cessions to the United States, and wish for such reasonable 
propositions from Congress as they can unite in supporting. You 
will observe a hint in the Remonstrance to this purpose ; it was 
intended to bring on offers from Congress, and there can't be a 
fitter time than the present, upon our having settled our dispute 
with Pennsylvania. I dare not presume to give my opinion upon 
this subject, farther than as an individual member ; but, from 
the best judgment I am able to make, (and I have taken some 
pains to inform myself,) I think if Congress would offer the 
guaranty of the United States, for our remaining territory, this 
commonwealth will agree to Mason and Dixon's line, from the 
intersection of the meridian, drawn from the fountain of the main 
north branch of [the] Potomac, to the Ohio river, as the northern 
boundary of Virginia, saving to the people north of the said line, 
on the long slip of land between the western boundary of Penn- 
sylvania and the said Ohio river, their titles previously founded 
under our laws ; and will also agree to fix the north-west bank of 
the Ohio river, from thence to the North Carolina line, in latitude 
36° 30' as the western boundary of Virginia ; granting to the 
inhabitants of the United States the full and free use of the 
navigation of the said river ; but if the North Carolina line shall 
be found to be south of the confluence of the Ohio and Missis- 
sippi, (which at present is uncertain,) then, and in that case, the 
western boundary of Virginia to be extended from the mouth of 
the Ohio down the Mississippi river, to the intersection of the 
said North Carolina line, ceding and relinquishing to the United 
States the right and title of Virginia, both in the soil and sovereignty 
of the country, northward and westward of the said boundaries, 
upon the following conditions : 

I St. That the territory so ceded shall be laid out and formed 
into not less than two separate and distinct states or governments. 
The time and manner of doing it to be at the discretion of Congress. 


2dly. That Virginia shall be allowed and fully reimbursed by 
the United States her expenses in reducing the British posts at 
the Kaskaskias and St. Vincents [Vincennes], the expense of 
maintaining garrisons, and supporting civil government there, 
since the reduction of the said posts, and in general all the charge 
she has incurred on account of the country on the north side of 
the Ohio river, since the declaration of American independence. 

3dly. That the French and Canadian inhabitants and other 
settlers at the Kaskaskias, St. Vincents and the neighboring 
villages, who have professed themselves citizens of Virginia, shall 
have their possessions and titles confirmed to them, and shall be 
protected in the enjoyment of their rights and liberty ; for which 
purpose troops shall be stationed there, at the charge of the 
United States, to protect them from the incroachments of the 
British forces at De Troit, or elsewhere, unless the events of war 
shall render it impracticable. 

4thly. As Col. George Rogers Clarke planned and executed 
the secret expedition by which the British posts were reduced, 
and was promised, if the enterprise succeeded, a liberal gratuity 
in lands in that country, for the officers and soldiers who first 
marched thither with him ; that a quantity of land not exceeding 
one hundred and fifty thousand acres, be allowed and granted to 
the said officers and soldiers, to be laid off in one tract, the length 
of which not to exceed two-thirds of the breadth, in such place 
on th6 north-west side of the Ohio, as the majority of the officers 
shall choose, and to be afterwards divided among the said officers 
and soldiers, in due proportions according to the laws of Virginia. 

5thly. That the said Col. George Rogers Clarke shall be per- 
mitted to hold, and shall have confirmed and granted to him, in 
fee simple for ever, without purchase money other than a nominal 
legal consideration, a certain tract of land, of seven miles and a 
half square, at the great falls of the Ohio, binding upon the river, 
upon the north-west side thereof, which hath been given him by 
the Wabache Indians for his services, and as a testimony of their 
friendship to him, and of their attachment to the commonwealth 
of Virginia and the cause of America. 

6thly. In case the quantity of good lands on the south-east side 
the Ohio, upon the waters of Cumberland river, and between the 
Green river and the Tennessee river, which have been reserved 


by law for the Virginia troops upon Continental establishment 
and upon their own State establishment, should (from the North 
Carolina line bearing in further upon the Cumberland lands than 
was expected) prove insufficient for their legal bounties ; that the 
deficiency shall be made up to the said troops, in good lands on 
the north-west side of the Ohio river, (within the territory to be 
ceded to the United States as aforesaid,) in such proportions as 
have been engaged to them by the laws of Virginia. 

ythly. That all the lands within the territory so ceded to the 
United States, and not reserved for, or appropriated to any of 
the herein-before-mentioned purposes, or disposed of in bounties 
to the officers and soldiers of the American army shall be con- 
sidered as a common fund for the use and benefit of such of the 
united American States as have become, or shall become mem- 
bers of the Confederation, or federal alliance of the said States 
(Virginia inclusive) according to their usual respective propor- 
tions in the general charge and expenditure, and shall be faith- 
fully and ^^ bona fide^^ disposed of for that purpose, and for no 
other use or purpose whatsoever ; and therefore that all purchases 
and deeds from any Indian or Indians, or from any Indian 
nation or nations, for any lands within any part of the said 
territory, which have been or shall be made for the use or benefit 
of any private person or persons whatsoever shall be deemed and 
declared absolutely void and of no effect, in the same manner as 
if the said territory had still remained subject to and part of the 
Commonwealth of Virginia. 

By the charter of 1609, Virginia is to extend from the cape or 
point of land called Cape or Point Comfort, all along the sea- 
coast to the northward two hundred miles, and from thence west 
and north-west into the land, &c. Giving this the most confined 
construction — that is, a due west course into the land, &c., the 
northern boundary of Virginia would pass through the western 
boundary of Pennsylvania, and strike the Mississippi between 
the 41st and 42d degrees of latitude. According to the late 
agreement the southern boundary of Pennsylvania, viz., Mason 
and Dixon's line (as well as I can recollect, for I have not now 
the papers by me) is in latitude 39° 45' 18'', and her western 
boundary a meridian line drawn from the termination of five 
degrees of longitude, computed from the Delaware ; consequently 


Virginia would cede to the United States, west of Pennsylvania 
and north of latitude 39° 45' 18', a tract of land in length from 
north to south not less than eighty or ninety miles, and in breadth 
from east to west, the whole distance between the western boun- 
dary of Pennsylvania and the Mississippi river, probably not 
less than three or four hundred miles ; besides the extensive 
country between the Ohio and Mississippi, lying south of latitude 
39^ 45' 18'. In the whole a territory of piore than fifty millions 
of acres, larger than all the territory remaining to Virginia 
between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ohio river, and between 
the States of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and North Carolina ; and 
from its levelness and fertility of soil, capable of sustaining more 
than double its number of inhabitants. Taking the subject in 
this point of view (which is not an exaggerated one) I trust 
Virginia will be considered as acting upon a large and liberal 
scale, and sacrificing her own local interests to the general cause 
* of America; and that the before-mentioned conditions are so 
moderate and reasonable that they can hardly be objected to by 
any real friend of American independence ; yet, lest they should 
be thought by any unnecessary or capricious, I will beg leave to 
ofifer some reasons in their support. 

The first condition is so evidently proper that little need be 
said on it. The power of one State owning such an extensive 
and fertile territory, whose situation is naturally, and whose 
commercial interest and connexions may in process of time, 
become so different from the others might be dangerous to the 
American union. 

The 2d and 3d, justice as well as policy require. Virginia has 
indeed a right to expect much more, particularly the charges of 
an expedition over the Ohio in the year 1774, which, though 
carried on by Lord Dunmore under the former ^government, has 
been paid for by the present, and the money emitted for that 
purpose is still in circulation, and is to be redeemed by the taxes 
imposed by our last session of Assembly. 

The French and Canadian inhabitants have received no titles 
from Virginia, further than a declaration that they should have 
their private property confirmed to them and be protected in the 
enjoyment of all their just rights as citizens. — I understand they 
possess only small portions of land contiguous to their respective 


villages, which they cultivate ; and to which, perhaps, they have 
no other legal title than the possession, under the encouragement 
or acquiescence of the former government. 

These people have great interest with the neighboring Indians 
and also with the French and Canadian inhabitants about Fort 
De Troit ; they raise provisions sufficient to support strong gar- 
risons, at the Kaskaskias and St. Vincents, are well affected to 
the United States, and may, if properly encouraged, be very use- 
ful to them, as their strength is by no means inconsiderable. 

4th and 5 th. The Commonwealth of Virginia hath yet given 
no titles to any lands on the north-west side of the Ohio ; but the 
public faith stands pledged to Colonel Clarke and his officers and 
men (in all about one hundred and eighty), who reduced the 
British posts of Kaskaskias and St. Vincents, for a liberal reward 
in the lands they conquered. This handful of men has per- 
formed more than two or three thousand men and two general 
officers, on the two expeditions against that country, ordered by 
Congress, at the expense of several millions ; and their success 
has been of great importance to the United States ; by fixing 
garrisons behind the Indian towns and deterring them from 
sending their warriors far from home, and by drawing from the 
British to the American interest several tribes of Indians ; the 
frontiers of the middle-states have been more effectually pro- 
tected than they would have been by ten times the number of 
troops stationed upon the Ohio ; and by putting Virginia in 
possession of these posts, they have not only taken them out of 
the hands of the British, but have prevented the Spaniards from 
possessing themselves of them ; which, but for that circumstance, 
they would most undoubtedly have done last year in their expe- 
dition up the Mississippi, when they took possession of every 
other British post upon that river ; in which case that country 
would have been lost to the United States and left to be disputed 
between Spain and Great Britain, upon a treaty of peace. The 
possession of these posts has prevented Spain from meddling 
with the country on this side the Mississippi, above the mouth 
of the Ohio, and will afford a strong argument in favor of our 
claim upon a treaty with Great Britain. It leads also to the 
reduction of the British garrison at Fort De Troit ; the situation 
of St. Vincents rendering it by far the most convenient place 


from whence to carry on an expedition for that purpose. Colonel 
Clarke's enterprising genius, his great interest with the back 
inhabitants, his influence with the western Indians, and his 
knowledge of the country, qualify him better than any man in 
America for conducting such an expedition. When these things 
are properly considered, I make no doubt that Congress will 
cheerfully agree to the conditions in favor of Colonel Clarke and 
his regiment. 

6th. When the law passed for opening a land office, a large 
tract of country, on the south-east side the Ohio, between the 
said river and the great mountains, and between the Green river, 
the North Carolina line, and the Tennessee river, was reserved 
for the Virginia troops, on Continental and State establishment ; 
which was then thought amply sufficient for the purpose ; the 
finest body of this reserved land being upon the waters of the 
Cumberland river and the North Carolina line being extended 
lately by the authority of the . . . States, and bearing on 
much farther upon the Cumberland lands than was expected, 
it is feared there may not remain a sufficient quantity of good 
lands for the said troops ; this may not, perhaps, be the case, but 
lest it should, it is incumbent upon Virginia, at all events before 
she make a cession of so large a part of her territory, to reserve 
the certain means of fulfilling her engagements to her own troops, 
both upon Continental and State establishment ; the latter are 
but few, most of the troops raised for the local defence of the 
State having been from time to time added to the Continental 

7 th. Without some such stipulation as this, there is reason to 
apprehend much abuse in this business. It is notorious that 
several gentlemen of great influence in the neighboring States 
were, and still are, concerned in partnership with Lord Dunmore, 
some other of the late American governors, and several of the 
British nobility and gentry, in a purchase for a mere trifle, about 
the year 1773, from the Indians, of a large tract of country, con- 
taining by their own computation between twenty and thirty 
millions of acres, on the north-west side the Ohio ; that there is 
another company claiming in the same manner an extensive tract 
adjoining the other ; and if fame speaks truth, these two com- 
panies, since the declaration of American independence^ have 


united their interests ; which they have spared no pains to 
strengthen, by disposing of shares to members of Congress, &c. 
Any man who reads with attention the Maryland Declaration will 
perceive that Assembly has been so far imposed upon, as to 
insert a clause evidently calculated to secure and guaranty these 
purchases ; by which means, under the popular pretence of 
establishing a common fund, the public would be duped by the 
arts of individuals, and the most valuable part of the territory to 
be ceded by Virginia, would be applied to private purposes. 
However just and necessary, therefore, this condition may be, 
private interest will probably suggest many objections to it ; but 
I am pretty confident Virginia will ever consider it as a '' sine 
qua non** 

I have given you the trouble of a tedious epistle; but the 
importance of the subject and your own request have brought it 
on you, and render an apology unnecessary. I am certain there 
will be a strong opposition here to the cession of such an exten- 
sive territory. As I think I have some weight in our Assembly, 
and more upon this than any other subject, I earnestly wish 
Congress may take up the consideration, and transmit reasonable 
proposals to our next session, that I may have an opportunity of 
giving them my aid; being anxious to do this last piece of service 
to the American Union, before I quit the Assembly, which I am 
determined to do at the end of the next session. I am, &c., 

G. M. 

N. B. — Mr. Jones was desired to communicate the contents of 
this letter to his colleagues in the delegation.' 

Madison was one of these colleagues, and to him Colonel 
Mason wrote a few days later : 

GuNSTON Hall, August ad, 178a 
Dear Sir: 

By late letters from Europe I understand a treaty of alliance 

will soon be concluded between his Catholic Majesty and the 

United States, upon which it is presumed Congress will find it 

necessary to appoint a consul in Spain, for the superintendence 

and protection of our trade. Should this be the case, I beg 

' Bland Papers, Charles Campbell, toI. ii., Appendix (D). 


leave to recommend Mr. Richard Harrison as a very proper 
person for the office. This gentleman is a native of Maryland, 
but about the beginning of the present troubles, removed to the 
island of Martinique, where he resided about two years, learned 
the French language, and transacted a good deal of business for 
Virginia and some other of the United States in a manner that 
gave general satisfaction. He is now settled at Cadiz, but when 
I heard from him last was in Madrid, and I am authorized to say 
will undertake the office, if he is appointed to it, presuming that 
Congress will think Cadiz the most proper place for the residence 
of an American consul. I have always been cautious in giving 
recommendations for public offices ; but my knowledge of Mr. 
Harrison's diligence, integrity and commercial knowledge, from 
a personal acquaintance with him, convinces me he will discharge 
such an office with reputation to himself and advantage to the 
commercial interest of America. 

I have written a long letter to Mr. Jones (who desired my 
sentiments) upon the subject of our back lands ; not doubting 
the harmony and confidence subsisting between him and his col- 
leagues in the delegation, I have desired him to communicate the 
contents, and must beg leave to recommend the subject to your 
particular attention 

Our Assembly considered Mr. Grififen's appointment to the 
office of a judge in the new Court of Admiralty established by 
Congress not only as vacating his seat in Congress, but rendering 
him ineligible, during his continuance in office, and therefore 
elected Colonel Theo. Bland to succeed him, who had accepted 
the appointment, and will soon attend Congress. 
I am, dear Sir, 

Your most obedient servant. 

G. Mason.' 

The progress of the war in the South was most discour- 
aging to the Americans at this time. Charleston had fallen 
into the enemy's hands the 12th of May, 1780, and General 
Gates, the hero of Saratoga, exchanging his northern laurels 
for southern willows, as he had been forewarned might be 
the case, on the i6th of August was defeated at Camden. 

' Madison MSS., Department of State. 


General Washington wrote to George Mason in October, 
introducing General Greene, the newly appointed com- 
mander of the Southern Department : 

Head Quarters, Passaic Falls, 

Dear Sir : ^°^ '**' *"^ 

In consequence of a resolve of Congress, directing an inquiry 
into the conduct of Major-General Gates, and authorizing me 
to appoint some other officer in his place during this inquiry, I 
have made choice of Major-General Greene, who will, I expect, 
have the honor of presenting you with this letter. 

I shall, without scruple introduce this gentleman to you as a 
man of ability, bravery and coolness. He has a comprehensive 
knowledge of our affairs, and is a man of fortitude and resources. 
I have not the smallest doubt, therefore, of his employing all the 
means which may be put in his hands to the best advantage, nor 
of his assisting in pointing out the most likely ones to answer 
the purposes of his command. With this character I take the 
liberty of recommending him to your civilities and support ; for 
I have no doubt, from the embarrassed situation of Southern 
afifairs, of his standing much in need of the latter from every 
gentleman of influence in the Assemblies of those States. 

As General Greene can give you the most perfect information 
in detail of our present distresses and future prospects, I shall 
content myself with the aggregate account of them ; and, with 
respect to the first, they are so great and complicated, that it is 
scarcely within the powers of description to give an adequate 
idea of them. With regard to the second, unless there is a 
material change both in our civil and military policy, it will be 
in vain to contend much longer. 

We are without money, and have been so for a long time, 
without provision and forage, except what is taken by impress ; 
without clothing, and shortly shall be (in a manner) without 
men. In a word, we have lived upon expedients till we can live 
no longer ; and it may truly be said, that the history of this 
war is a history of false hopes and temporary devices, instead of 
system — and economy, which results from it. 

If we mean to continue our struggles (and it is to be hoped we 
shall not relinquish our claims), we must do it upon an entire 


new plan. We must have a permanent force, not a force that 
is constantly fluctuating, and sliding from under us as a pedes- 
tal of ice would leave a statue on a summer's day, involving us 
in expense that baffles all calculation, an expense which no 
funds are equal to. We must at the same time contrive ways 
and means to aid our taxes by loans, and put our finances upon 
a more certain and stable footing than they are at present. Our 
civil government must likewise undergo a reform ; ample powers 
must be lodged in Congress as the head of the Federal Union^ 
adequate to all the purposes of war. Unless these things are 
done, our efiforts will be in vain, and only serve to accumulate 
expense, add to our perplexities, and dissatisfy the people, with- 
out a prospect of obtaining the prize in view. But these senti- 
ments do not appear well in a hasty letter, without digestion or 
order. I have not time to give them otherwise, and shall only 
assure you that they are well meant, however crude they may 
appear. With sincere affection, 

I am, dear Sir, 

Your most obedient servant, 

George Washington.' 

General Greene went to Richmond, where the Assembly 
was in session, stopping on his way at " Mount Vernon/* 
and very probably visiting " Gunston Hall." He wrote to 
Washington from Richmond, that his letters had been of 
singular service, and expressed his thanks for their warm 
recommendations. General Henry Lee wrote to George 
Mason from the Southern Department in November, oflfer- 
ing a position in his command to William Mason, at this 
time a captain in the Continental service. Colonel Mason 
replied as follows - 

Gunston Hall, December 13, 1780. 
Dear Sir : 

I received your favor of the 30th November, and have the 
warmest sense of your very friendly ofifer to my son William, 
whose inclination I well know would strongly incline him to 
accept it, in which I would most cheerfully indulge him if I had 

^ Lee's " Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department," p. 210 note. 
New York, 1869. 


any thought of continuing him in the military line, as in that 
case it would give me great satisfaction to place him under the 
direction of a gentleman who has rendered such important serv- 
ices to our country, and in whose friendship I could so thoroughly 
confide. But I have ever intended him for civil and private life ; 
his lot must be that of a farmer and country gentleman, and 
at this time there is a particular domestic circumstance which 
will require his return as soon as his present time of service 
expires. Permit me, sir, to return you my thanks for the very 
friendly part you have acted, and to assure you that I am with 
the greatest esteem and regard. 

Your most obedient servant, 

G. Mason.* 

> Ibid,^ p. 3a • 



In the name of God, Amen, I, George Mason, Senr., of the 
county of Stafford in the colony of Virginia, being siclc and weak 
in body, but perfect and sound memory, praised be God for it, 
do make and ordain this my wiU, revoking and making null and 
void all former will or wills by me heretofore made and this only 
to be my last Will and Testament 

I give and bequeath my soul to Almighty God that gave it me, 
hoping that through the meritorious Death and Passion of our 
Saviour and Redeemer Jesns Christ, to receive absolution and 
remission for all my sins, and my body to the Earth to be decently 
buried according to the Discretion of my Executors hereafter 

Imprimis, I give and bequeath unto my son, French Mason, 
all the land which I bought of Martin Scarlet and Thomas 
James, to him and his heirs forever. Item, I give unto my son 
French Mason, Primo, Scanderback, Peter, Sarah, Nicholas, and 
Jenny, six negro slaves which he is now already poasest with, to 
him and his heirs forever. Item, I give and bequeath unto my son 
Nicholson Mason, all the land which I bought of Edward Rock* 
wood, in Maryland, to hiro and his heirs forever. Item, I give 
and bequeath unto my son, Nicholson Mason, Charles, Moal, 
Billy, Nanny, Lucy, Nelly, and Digg, seven slaves, to him and 
his heirs forever. Item, I give and bequeath unto my son Fran- 
cis Mason, all the land that I bought of Madame Brent, Raw- 
leigh Travers, and William Lambeth, to him and his heirs 
forever. Item, I give and bequeath unto my son Francis Mason 
all the land which I bought of John Harper, John Simpson, and 


Bryant Foley, to him and his heirs forever. Item, I give and 
bequeath unto my son Francis Mason, Harry, Walker, and Jacob, 
three negro slaves, to him and his heirs forever. Item, I give 
and bequeath unto my son, Thomas Mason, all the land which I 
bought of Alexander Waugh, to him and his heirs forever. Item, 
I give and bequeath unto my son, Thomas Mason, all the land 
which I bought of William Moss in Maryland, and all the land I 
bought of Michael Valandigham in Stafford County, to him and 
his heirs forever. I give and bequeath unto my son, Thomas 
Mason, Bess and Mudaley, two negro slaves, to him and his heirs 
forever. I give and bequeath unto my daughter, Elizabeth 
Mason, one negro man called Tom, to her and her heirs for- 
ever, and one feather bed, bolster, rug, pair blankets, and two 
pair sheets. Item, I give and bequeath unto my daughter^ Sim- 
pher Rosa Mason, one negro slave called Valentine, to her and 
her heirs forever, and one feather bed, bolster, rug, blankets, and 
two pair sheets. Item, I give and bequeath unto my daughters, 
Elizabeth and Simpher Rosa Mason, all that land which I hold 
in partnership with James Hereford, being nine hundred and nine 
acres by computation, be the same more or less, equally to be 
divided to them and their heirs forever. Item, I give and be- 
queath unto my daughter, Catherine Mason, all the land where 
Thomas Brookes now lives and the rest of the land at the head 
of Potomack Creek, which my brother-in-law, Joseph Waugh, 
did grant and convey unto me, unto her and her heirs forever. 
Item, I give and bequeath unto my daughter Catherine Mason, 
one mulatto girl called Sarah, to her and her heirs forever, and 
one feather bed, bolster, rug, pair blankets, and two pair sheets. 
Item, I give and bequeath unto my son George Mason, two silver 
candlesticks, snuffers, and snuff dish belonging to the same, 
forever. Item, I give and bequeath all the rest of my silver plate 
to be equally divided between my dear and loving wife, Sarah 
Mason, and my son Nicholson Mason, to be and to remain to 
their heirs forever. Item, I give and bequeath unto my daughter 
Sarah Mason, one feather bed, bolster, rugg, pair blankets and 
two pair sheets forever. Item, I give and bequeath unto my dear 
and loving wife, and my son Nicholson Mason all the rest of my 
household stuff, beds, furniture, pots, pans, pewter either Iron 
or Wooden ware, be it of what nature soever equally to be divided 


between them two, and my sons Thomas and Francis Mason, 
each of them to have, share and share alike of the said house- 
hold furniture aforesaid. Item, I give and bequeath unto my 
dear and loving wife Sarah Mason, all my stock, both Cattle and 
Hoggs. Item, I give and bequeath all of my Tobacco money 
and goods to be equally divided between my Dear and Loving 
wife and my son Nicholson Mason, my Family being first cloathed. 
Item, I give unto my son-in-law William Darrall, five hundred 
pounds of Tobacco which shall be paid unto him after my de- 
cease. Item, I give and bequeath unto my son-in-law George 
KlirJuigh, Ji'lvc hinulretl poundn of Tobacco lo be imld him after 

my decease. I give and bequeath unto John Heedman two hun- 
dred acres of land which lies in Cockpit Point, unto him and his 
heirs forever, and all my wearing apparell. Item, I do constitute, 
ordain and appoint my Loving sons George Mason and Nichol- 
son Mason, Ex'rs of this, my last Will and Testament, to see all 
things duly performed according to the true intent and meaning 
of this my will. 

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 

29th day of June, 17 15. 

George Mason. 

Signed, sealed and delivered in the presence of us. 

James Hereford (Signed). 
Hugh x Farrall (Signed). 
Mary x Lewis (Signed). 
H. Parry. 

At a court held for Stafford County the 14th day of November, 
Anno Domini, 17 16, the last will and testament of George Mason, 
gent, deceased, was presented unto court by George Mason, who 
made oath thereto (Nicholson Mason having departed this life 
before the said will was proved), and being prov'd by the oath of 
Henry Parry, one of the witnesses thereto, is admitted to record, 
and on the motion of the said George Mason, and his performing 
what is usual in such cases, certificate is granted him for obtain- 
ing a probate thereof in due form, and the will ordered to be 

recorded, and is recorded. 

Per Thos. Fitzhuoh, CI. Cur. 

'Extracted from the "Book of Landed Possessions of John Mercer of 
Marlboro,' " the property of Prof. James Mercer Gamett. 



There were on record at Stafford Court House in 1845 two 
wills, of which the following memoranda remain : 


The last will and testament of George Mason, of Acquia, Staf- 
ford County, dated October 18, 17 10, and recorded May 11, 
1711, leaving his wife Margaret his sole executrix and the follow- 
ing children his heirs : George, William, Lyman, Mary Ann. 


The last will and testament of George Mason, of Stafford 
County in the colony of Virginia, dated June 19 and recorded 
September 14, 17 15, leaving, after a few legacies to his sisters 
Margaret Bennett and Ann French Mason, his whole estate to 
his wife Mary Mason and his sole executrix. There are no 
children mentioned in the will. 

Whether one or both of these gentlemen were of the same 
family as George Mason of Gunston it is now impossible to 
determine. It has been asserted in one of the family MSS. that 
George Mason of Gunston was the fifth of his line, and not the 
fourth, and that his grandfather married a Miss French. Legal 
documents seem to demonstrate that there were but three in the 
direct line, counting the founder of the family, before George 
Mason of '76. Mary Fowke was without doubt his grandmother^ 
and his great-grandmother was probably a Miss French — a name 
well known and prominent in the colony. 


Col. Enoch Mason of "Clover Hill," Stafford County, des- 
cended, it seems probable, from the same stock originally as 
Col. George Mason, intermarried with the Fowkes and be- 
came allied, therefore, to Col. George Mason's descendants. 
Sarah, the daughter of Gerard and Elizabeth Dinwiddie Fowke, 
married Wiley Roy. Their daughter Lucy married CoL 


Enoch Mason. There were ten children of this marriage, of 
whom one only survives, Dr. Gerard Fowke Mason of Charles- 
town, West Virginia. The descendants of Col. Enoch Mason 
are numerous, and socially prominent in Virginia and other 
States. Elizabeth Dinwiddie Fowke was a first cousin of George 
Mason of Gunston. 


Col. William Fitzhugh, son of George and Mary Mason 
Fitzhugh, married first Mrs. Martha Turberville, n^e Lee, a 
daughter of Richard Lee and niece of Col. Thomas Lee of 
''Stratford." By this marriage he had one son, George Lee 
Mason Fitzhugh. Colonel Fitzhugh married secondly Mrs. Ann 
Rousby, n^e Frisby, of " Rousby Hall," Calvert County, Mary- 
land, and the children of this marriage were Peregrine, William, 
and John Fitzhugh. Peregrine and William were both officers 
in the Revolutionary War, and the former served on General 
Washington's personal staff. All of these sons left descend- 
ants. Col. William Fitzhugh, at an early period of his life, 
entered the British army and served with Admiral Vernon in 
his attack on Carthagena. In that expedition he was the friend 
and companion of Lawrence Washington, as he was afterwards 
equally intimate with General Washington. He resigned his 
commission as captain in Gooch's regiment of foot in June, 
1776, and distinguished himself in the civil service of Mary- 
land during the Revolution, serving in the Convention which 
framed the Constitution, and in the Legislature of the State. 
He was also at one time a member of the Council. As a 
member of the Committee of Vigilance of Calvert County he 
was active in organizing a force for the protection of its shores 
from the predatory boat excursions of the enemy. But during 
his absence from his home in 1780 and in 1781, the enemy 
landed there and burned the buildings and furniture, and carried 
ofif forty-two of his slaves. Contiguous to " Rousby Hall," the 
plantation on which he lived, was the farm of '' Millmount," 
where Colonel Fitzhugh had established a mill or manufactory 
for making ship-bread for the supply of vessels trading in the 





The policy of encouraging the importation of free people and 
discouraging that of slaves has never been duly considered in 
this colony, or we should not at this day see one half of our best 
lands in most parts of the country remain unsettled and the other 
cultivated with slaves ; not to mention the ill effect such a prac- 
tice has upon the morals and manners of our people. One of 
the first signs of the decay and perhaps the primary cause of the 
destruction of .the most flourishing government that ever existed 
was the introduction of great numbers of slaves, an evil very 
pathetically described by the Roman historians. But it is not 
the present intention to expose our weakness by examining this 
subject too freely. That the custom of leasing lands is more 
beneficial to the community than that of settling them with 
slaves is a maxim that will hardly be denied in any free country. 
Though it may not be attended with so much immediate profit 
to the landholder, in proportion as it is useful to the public, the 
invitations from the Legislature to pursue it should be stronger. 
No means seem so natural as securing the payment of rents in 
an easy and effective manner. The little trouble and risk attend- 
ing this species of property may be considered as an equivalent 
to the greater profit arising from the labor of slaves, or any other 
precarious and troublesome estate. 

The common law (independent of any statute) gives the land- 
lord a right to distrain upon anything on his land for the rent 
due ; that is, it puts the remedy into his own hands. But as so 
unlimited a power was liable to be abused, it was found neces- 
sary to punish the abuse of it by penal statutes, made in ierror^m^ 
to preserve justice and prevent the oppression which the poor 
might otherwise suffer from the rich ; not to destroy the land- 
lord's right, which still remained unimpeached, and has not only 
been exercised in this colony from its first settlement, but has 
obtained in our mother-country from time immemorial. Unin- 
terrupted and long experience carry with them a conviction of 
general utility. 


The fluctuating state of our trade, the uncertainty of our 
markets, and the scarcity of money frequently render it imprac- 
ticable for the debtor to raise money out of his effects to dis- 
charge a sudden and perhaps unexpected judgment, and have 
introduced a law giving the debtor a right to replevy his goods 
under execution by bond with security (approved by the creditor) 
to pay the debt and costs with interest in three months ; which 
bonds are returnable to the clerk's office whence the execution 
issued, to remain in the nature of judgments, and final executions 
may be obtained upon them when due by a motion to the court 
with ten days' notice to the parties. The Legislature considering 
distresses for rents in the same light with executions for common 
debts, has thought fit to extend the same indulgence to them, 
though it would not be hard to show that the cases are by no 
means similar, and that the reasons which are just in the former 
do not hold good in the latter. By comparing the laws there 
also appears such an inconsistency in that relating to replevin 
bonds for rent as may render the method prescribed difficult, if 
not impracticable ; there being no previous record (as in the 
case of executions), the bonds do not seem properly returnable 
to the clerk's office, nor is that matter clearly expressed or pro- 
vided for in the act. This has not hitherto been productive of 
much inconvenience, though contrary to the course and spirit of 
the common law, the landlord may thereby be brought into a 
court of judicature before he can get the effect of a just and legal 
distress, but in our present circumstances it will occasion mani- 
fest injustice. If the officer making a distress, upon being offered 
security, refuses to take a bond for want of stamped paper, the 
goods of the tenant must be immediately exposed to sale and he 
deprived of the indulgence intended by the Act of Assembly. 
If the officer takes a replevin bond as usual, the landlord will* 
lose his rent, the tenant then having it in his power to keep him 
out of it as long as he pleases ; for in the present confusion and 
cessation of judicial proceedings, the landlord will not have an 
opportunity of applying to court for an execution when the bond 
becomes payable ; or, if he does, the clerk will not venture to 
issue one. In either case there is such a hardship as calls for 
the interposition of the Legislature. 

These inconveniencies, it is conceived, may be obviated if the 


tenant, instead of replevying his goods by bond, had a right to 
supersede the distress for three months by application to a single 
magistrate, who should be empowered and required, upon the 
tenant producing, under the hand of the person making distress, 
a certificate of the rent distrained for and costs, to take from the 
principal and good securities a conditional confession of judg- 
ment, in the following or some such form. 

" Virginia, . . . Cdunty S. S.— You, A. B., C. D. and E. 

F. of the said county do confess judgment unto G. H. of the 
county of . . . for the sum of . . . due unto the said 

G. H. for rent, for which distress has been made upon the goods 
of the said A. B. and also for the sum of . . . the costs of 
the said distress : which said sums of . . . and . . . 
costs with legal interest from the date hereof to be levyed of 
your or either of your body's goods or chattels for the life of the 
said G. H. in case the said A. B. shall not pay and satisfy to the 

said G. H. the said sums of . . . and . . . costs with 


interest thereon as aforesaid within three months at furthest 
from the date hereof. Taken and acknowledged the . . . 
day of . . . before me, one of his majesty's justices of the 
peace for the said county of . . . Given under my hand the 
day and year aforesaid. 

" To T. K., Sheriff or Constable 
(as the case is)." 

Which confession of judgment should restore to the tenant his 
goods, and be returned by the officer to the landlord, who at the 
end of the three months (giving the parties ten days' notice) 
should be entitled to an execution thereon, to be awarded by a 
single magistrate also. 

This method will protect the tenant from oppression by con- 
firming the indulgence the Act of Assembly formerly gave him^ 
at the same time that it secures the landlord in the payment of 
his rent. And it can hardly be objected to as giving a single 
magistrate a new and dangerous jurisdiction, when it is con- 
sidered that the application to a court on replevin bonds for rent 
was mere matter of form, in which the court could exercise no 
judicial power, and that an execution might as safely be awarded 
by a magistrate out of court in the case of rents, where (as has 


been before observed) there was no original record or jurisdiction 
in the court but by the common law the sole power vested in the 
landlord, who, should the proposed alteration take place, will be 
as liable to be punished for the abuse of it as he was before. If 
the form of the judgment recommended is objected to as subject- 
ing the body to execution in a case where the goods only were 
originally liable, let it be considered that it is at the tenant's own 
request the nature of his debt is changed ; that when the landlord 
sues for rent, he may upon a judgment order a fi : fa : or a ca : 
sa : at his own option, and that he may do the same thing in the 
case of replevin bonds. 

If some such alteration as is here proposed should be thought 
necessary, any little errors or deficiencies in this scheme may be 
easily corrected in drawing up the law.' 

A draft of the '' Address of the House of Burgesses to Gov- 
ernor Fauquier in 1765," in the handwriting of George Mason, 
has come to light recently among the Washington manuscripts 
in the State Department. It has been supposed -hitherto that 
Richard Henry Lee was the author of this address, as it is found 
among his papers. It is possible that both Mason and Lee made 
copies from an original, of which the authorship is unknown. 
The paper, however, in its close reasoning and concise expression, 
is very much in George Mason's style. It is published in the 
Southern Literary Messenger^ February, i860. 



Virginia, Potomack Rivbr, 
Jane 6th, 1766. 

Gentlemen : 

There is a letter of yours dated the aoth of February last, lately 
printed in the public papers here, which, though addressed to a 
particular set of men, seems intended for the colonies in general ; 
and, being upon a very interesting subject, I shall, without further 

' Mftnuicripts in Deputment of SUte. 


preface or apology, exercise the right of a freeman in making such 
remarks upon it as I think proper. 

The epithets of parent and child have been so long applied to 
Great Britain and her colonies, that individuals have adopted 
them, and we rarely see anything from your side of the water free 
from the authoritative style of a master to a schoolboy : 

'' We have with infinite difficulty and fatigue got you excused this 
one time ; pray be a good boy for the future, do what your papa 
and mama bid you, and hasten to return them your most grateful 
acknowledgements for condescending to let you keep what is your 
own ; and then all your acquaintance will love you, and praise 
you, and give you pretty things ; and if you should at any time 
hereafter happen to transgress, your friends will all beg for you, 
and be security for your good behaviour ; but if you are a naughty 
boy, and turn obstinate, and don't mind what your papa and 
mama say to you, but presume to think their commands (let them 
be what they will) unjust or unreasonable, or even seem to ascribe 
their present indulgence to any other motive than excess of 
moderation and tenderness, and pretend to judge for yourselves, 
when you are not arrived at the years of discretion, or capable of 
distinguishing between good and evil ; then everybody will hate 
you, and say you are a graceless and undutif ul child ; your parents 
and masters will be obliged to whip you severely, and your friends 
will be ashamed to say anything in your excuse : nay, they will 
be blamed for your faults. See your work — see what you have 
brought the child to. If he had been well scourged at first for 
opposing our absolute will and pleasure, and daring to think he 
had any such thing as property of his own, he would not have 
had the impudence to repeat the crime.'* 

'' My dear child, we have laid the alternative fairly before you, 
you can't hesitate in the choice, and we doubt not you will observe 
such a conduct as your friends recommend." 

Is not this a little ridiculous, when applied to three millions of 
as loyal and useful subjects as any in the British dominions, who 
have been only contending for their birth-right, and have now 
only gained, or rather kept, what could not, with common justice, 
or even policy, be denied them ? But setting aside the manner, 
let me seriously consider the substance and subject of your letter. 

Can the honor of parliament be maintained by persisting in a 


measure evidently wrong ? Is it any reflection upon the honor 
of parliament to show itself wiser this year than the last, to have 
profited by experience, and to correct the errors which time and 
indubitable evidence have pointed out ? 

If the Declaratory Act, or Vote of Right, has asserted any un- 
just, oppressive, or unconstitutional principles, to become " waste 
paper " would be the most innocent use that could be made of 
it ; by the copies we have seen here, the legislative authority of 
Great Britain is fully and positively asserted in all cases whatso- 
ever. But a just and necessary distinction between legislation 
and taxation hath been made by the greatest and wisest men in 
the nation ; so that if the right to the latter had been disclaimed, 
it would not have impeached or weakened the vote of right ; on 
the contrary, it would have strengthened it, for nothing (except 
hanging the author of the Stamp Act) would have contributed 
more to restore that confidence which a weak or corrupt ministry 
had so greatly impaired. 

We do not deny the supreme authority of GLreat Britain over 
her colonies ; but it is a power which a wise legislature will exer- 
cise with extreme tenderness and caution, and carefully avoid 
the least imputation or suspicion of partiality. Would to God 
that this always had been, that it always may be the case ! To 
make an odious distinction between us and our fellow-subjects 
residing in Great Britain, by depriving us of the ancient trial, by 
a jury of our equals, and substituting in its place an arbitrary 
civil-law court — to put it in the power of every sycophant and 
informer ('' the most mischievous, wicked, abandoned and prof- 
ligate race," says an eminent writer upon British politics, "that 
ever God permitted to plague mankind ") to drag a freeman a 
thousand miles from his own country (whereby he may be de- 
prived of the benefit of evidence) to defend his property before 
a judge, who, from the nature of his office, is a creature of the 
ministry, liable to be displaced at their pleasure, whose interest 
it is to encourage informers, as his income may in a great meas- 
ure depend upon his condemnations, and to give such a judge a 
power of excluding the most innocent man, thus treated, from 
any remedy (even the recovery of his costs) by only certifying 
that in his opinion there was a probable cause of complaint ; and 
thus to make the property of the subject, in a matter which may 


reduce him from opulence to indigence, depend upon a word 
before unknown in the language and style of laws ! Are these 
among the instances that call for our expression of " filial grati- 
tude to our parent-country " ? These things did not altogether 
depend upon the stamp act, and therefore are not repealed 
with it. 

Can the foundations of the state be sapped and the body of the 
people remain unaffected ? Are the inhabitants of Great Britain 
absolutely certain that, in the ministry or parliament of a future 
day, such incroachments will not be urged as precedents against 
themselves ? Is the indulgence of Great Britain manifested by 
prohibiting her colonies from exporting to foreign countries such 
commodities as she does not want, and from importing such as 
• she does not produce or manufacture, and therefore cannot fur- 
nish but upon extravagant terms ? One of your own writers (I 
think it is Bishop Burnet) relates a remarkable piece of tyranny 
of the priesthood in Italy : '* They make it an article of religion," 
says he, '* for the people to mix water with their wine in the 
press, by which it is soured ; so that the laity cannot drink a 
drop of good wine, unless they buy it from the convents, at what- 
ever price the clergy think fit to set upon it." I forbear to make 
the application. 

Let our fellow-subjects in Great Britain reflect that we are 
descended from the same stock with themselves, nurtured in the 
same principles of freedom ; which we have both sucked in with 
our mother's milk ; that in crossing the Atlantic Ocean, we have 
only changed our climate, not our minds, our natures and dis- 
positions remain unaltered ; that we are still the same people 
with them in every respect ; only not yet debauched by wealth, 
luxury, venality and corruption ; and then they will be able to 
judge how the late regulations have been relished in America. 

You need not, gentlemen, be afraid of our " breaking out into 
intemperate strains of triumph and exaltation " ; there is yet no 
cause that our joy should exceed the bounds of moderation. 

If we are ever so unfortunate [as] to be made slaves, which 
God avert ! what matter is it to us whether our chains are forged 
in London or at Constantinople ? Whether the oppression comes 
from a British parliament or a Turkish divan ? 

You tell us that '' our task-masters will probably be restored." 


Do you mean the stamp officers, or the stamp ministry ? If the 
first, the treatment they have already found here will hardly 
make them fond of returning. If the latter, we despise them too 
much to fear them. They have sufficiently exposed their own 
ignorance, malice and impotence. The cloven foot has been 
too plainly seen to be again concealed ; they have tendered 
themselves as obnoxious to Great Britain as to America. 

If the late ministerial party could have influenced the legisla- 
ture to have made so cruel and dangerous an experiment as at- 
tempting to enforce the stamp-act by military power, would the 
nation have engaged heartily in such an execrable cause ? 
Would there have been no difficulty in raising and transporting 
a body of troops sufficient to occupy a country of more than two 
thousand miles in extent ? Would they have had no dangers to 
encounter in the woods and wilds of America ? Three millions 
of people driven to desperation are not an object of contempt. 
America, however weak in herself, adds greatly to the strength 
of Great Britain ; which would be diminished in proportion by 
her loss ; with prudent management she might become an im- 
penetrable bulwark to the British Nation, and almost enable it to 
stand before the stroke of time. 

Say there was not a possibility of failing in the project, what 
then would have been the consequence ? Could you have . 
destroyed us without ruining yourselves ? The trade of Great 
Britain is carried on and supported principally by credit. If the 
American [Query, London ?] merchant has an hundred thousand 
pounds due to him in the colonies, he must owe near as much to 
his woolen-draper, his linen-draper, his grocer, &c., and these 
again are indebted to the manufacturer, and so on ; there is no 
determinate end to this commercial chain ; break but one link of 
it and the whole is destroyed. Make a bankrupt of the mer- 
chant by stopping his remittances from America, and you strike 
at the credit of every man who has connections with him ; there 
is no knowing where the contagion would stop. You would 
overturn one another like a set of ninepins. The value of your 
lands and produce would fall, your manufacturers would starve 
for want of employment, your funds might fail, your public credit 
sink, and let but the bubble once burst, where is the man who 
could undertake to blow it up again ? 


These evils are for the present removed. Praised be Almighty 
God ! Blessed be our most gracious sovereign ! Thanks to the 
present mild and prudent temper of parliament. Thanks to the 
wise and honest conduct of the present administration. Thanks 
to the unwearied diligence of our friends, the British merchants 
and manufacturers ; thanks to that happy circumstance of their 

« private interest being so interwoven with ours that they could not 
be separated. Thanks to tKe spirited and disinterested conduct 
of our own merchants in the northern colonies, who deserve to 
have their names handed down with reverence and gratitude to 
posterity. Thanks to the unanimity of the colonies themselves. 
And many thanks to our generous and able benefactor, Mr. Pitt» 
who has always stood (9rth a champion in the cause of liberty 
and his country. No thanks to Mr. Grenville and his party, who^ 
without his genius or abilities, has dared to act the part that 
Pericles did, when he engaged his country in the Peloponnesian 
War, which, after a long and dreadful scene of blood, ended in 
the ruin of all Greece, and fitted it for the Macedonian yoke. 

Some bungler in politics will soon, perhaps, be framing schemes 
for restraining our manufactures — vain attempt. Our land is 
cheap and fresh ; we have more of it than we are able to employ ; 
while we can live in ease and plenty upon our farms, tillage and 
not arts will engage our attention. If, by opening the channels of 
trade, you afford us a ready market for the produce of our lands» 
and an opportunity of purchasing cheap the conveniences of life, 
all our superfluous gain will sink into your pockets, in return for 
British manufactures. If the trade of this continent with the 
French and Spaniards, in their sugar islands, had not been re- 
strained, Great Britain would soon have undersold them, with 
their own produce, in every market of the world. Until you lay 
us under a necessity of shifting for ourselves, you need not be 
afraid of the manufactures of America. The ancient poets, in 
their elegant manner of expression, have made a kind of being of 
necessity, and tell us that the gods themselves are obliged to 
yield to her. 

It is by invitations and indulgence, not by compulsion, that 

' the market for British manufactures is to be kept up and in- 
creased in America : without the first you will find the latter as 

ineffectual, as destructive of the end it aims at, as persecution in 


matters of religion ; which serves not to extinguish but to con- 
firm the heresy. There is a passion natural to the mind of man, 
especially a free man, which renders him impatient of restraint. 
Do you, does any sensible man think that three or four millions 
of people, not naturally defective in genius, or in courage, who 
have tasted the sweets of liberty, in a country that doubles its 
inhabitants every twenty years, in a country abounding in such 
variety of soil and climate, capable of producing, not only the 
necessaries, but the conveniences and delicacies of life, will long 
submit to oppression ; if unhappily for yourselves oppression 
should be offered them ? Such another experiment as the stamp- 
act would produce a general revolt in America. 

Do you think that all your rival powers in Europe would sit 
still and see you crush your once flourishing and thriving colo- 
nies, unconcerned spectators of such a quarrel ? Recollect what 
happened in the Low Countries a century or two ago. Call to 
mind the cause of the revolt. Call to mind, too, the part that 
England herself then acted. The same causes will generally 
produce the same effects ; and it requires no great degree of 
penetration to foretell that what has happened may happen 
again. God forbid there should be occasion, and grant that the 
union, liberty and mutual happiness of Great Britain and her 
colonies may continue uninterrupted to the latest ages ! 

America has always acknowledged her dependence upon Great 
Britain. It is her interest, it is her inclination to depend upon ^< 
Great Britain. We readily own that these colonies were first 
settled, not at the expence but under the protection of the Eng- 
lish government ; which protection it has continued to afford 
them ; and we own, too, that protection and allegiance are recip- 
rocal duties. If it is asked at whose expence they were settled, 
the answer is obvious — at the expence of the private adventurers, 
our ancestors ; the fruit of whose toil and danger we now enjoy. 
We claim nothing but the liberty and privileges of Englishmen, 
in the same degree, as if we had still continued among our breth- 
ren in Great Britain ; these rights have not .been forfeited by any 
act of ours ; we cannot be deprived* of them, without our con- 
sent, but by violence and injustice ; we have received them from 
our ancestors, and, with God's leave, we will transmit them, un- 
impaired, to our posterity. Can those who have hitherto acted 


as our friends, endeavour now, insidiously to draw from us con- 
cessions destructive to what we hold far dearer than life ? 

— *' If I could find example 
Of thousands that by bare submission had 
Preserv'd their freedom, I 'd not do 't ; but since 
Nor brass, nor stone, nor parchment bears not one ; 
Let cowardice itself fopwear it." 

Our laws, our language, our principles of government, our 
intermarriages, and other connections, our constant intercourse, 
and above all our interest, are so many bands which hold us to 
Great Britain, not to be broken but by tyranny and oppression. 
Strange that among the late ministry there should not be found 
a man of common sense and common honesty, to improve and 
strengthen these natural ties by a mild and just government, 
instead of weakening and almost dissolving them by partiality 
and injustice ! But I will not open the wounds which have been 
so lately bound up, and which still require a skilful and a gentle 
hand to heal them. 

These are the sentiments of a man who spends most of his 
time in retirement, and has seldom meddled in public affairs^ 
who enjoys a moderate but independent fortune, and, content 
with the blessings of a private station, equally disregards the 
smiles and frowns of the great ; who, though not bom within the 
verge of the British Isle, is an Englishman in his principles, a 
zealous assertor of the Act of Settlement, firmly attached to the 
present royal family upon the throne, unalienably affected to his 
Majesty's sacred person and government, in the defence of which 
he would shed the last drop of his blood ; who looks upon 
Jacobitism as the most absurd infatuation, the wildest chimera 
that ever entered into the head of man ; who adores the wisdom 
and happiness of the British Constitution ; and if he had his 
election now to make, would prefer it to any that does or ever 
did exist. I am not singular in this my political creed ; these 
are the general principles of his Majesty's subjects in America ; 
they are the principles of more than nine-tenths of the people 
who have been so basely misrepresented to you, and whom you 
would lately have treated as rebels and outlaws, a people to 
whom you can never grant too much, because you can hardly 


give them anything which will not redound to the benefit of the 

If any person should think it worth his while to animadvert 
upon what I have written, I shall make no reply. I have neither 
ability nor inclination to turn author. If the maxims I have 
asserted and the reflections I have made are in themselves just, 
they will need no vindication ; if they are erroneous, I shall 
esteem it a favour to have my errors pointed out, and will, in 
modest silence, kiss the rod that corrects me. 

I am. Gentlemen, your most obedient servant, 

A Virginia Planter.* 



We, his Majesty's most dutiful subjects, the late representatives 
of all the freeholders of the colony of Virginia, avowing our 
inviolable and unshaken fidelity and loyalty to our most gracious 
sovereign, our affection for all our fellow-subjects of Great 
Britain, protesting against every act or thing which may have 
the most distant tendency to interrupt or in anywise disturb his 
Majesty's peace and the good order of his government in this 
colony, which we are resolved at the risk of our lives and for- 
tunes to maintain and defend ; but at the same time being deeply 
affected with the grievances and distresses with which his Ma- 
jesty's American subjects are oppresMd^nd dreading the evils 
which threaten the ruin of ourselves affit our posterity by redu- 
cing us from a free and happy people to a wretched and miserable 
state of slavery, and having taken into our most serious consid- 
eration the present state of the trade of this colony, and of the 
American commerce in general, observe with anxiety that the 
debt due to Great Britain for goods imported from thence is 
very great, and that the means of paying this debt, in the present 
situation of affairs, are likely to become more. and more precari- 
ous ; that the difficulties under which we now labour are owing 
to the restrictions, prohibitions, and ill advised regulations in 

^ Copy of a letter transmitted to the printer of the Public Ledger in London, 
June, 1766. 


several late acts of parliament of Great Britain, in particular the 
late unconstitutional act imposing duties on tea, paper, glass, 
etc., for the sole purpose of raising a revenue in America, is 
injurious to property and destructive to liberty, hath a necessary 
tendency to prevent the payment of the debt due from this 
colony to Great Britain, and is of consequence ruinous to trade ; 
that notwithstanding the many earnest applications already 
made, there is little reason to expect a redress of these griev- 
ances : Therefore, in justice to ourselves and our posterity, as 
well as to the traders of Great Britain concerned in the Ameri- 
can commerce, we, the subscribers, have voluntarily and unani- 
mously entered into the following resolutions, in hopes that our 
example will induce the good people of this colony to be frugal 
in the use and consumption of British manufactures, and that 
the merchants and manufacturers of Great Britain may, from 
motives of interest, friendship, and justice, be engaged to exert 
themselves to obtain for us a redress of those grievances under 
which the trade and inhabitants of America at present labor. 
We do therefore most earnestly recommend this our association 
to the serious attention of all gentlemen merchants, traders, and 
other inhabitants of this colony, in hopes that they will very 
readily and cordially accede thereto. 

First, It is unanimously agreed on and resolved, this i8th 
day of May, 1769, that the subscribers, as well by their own 
example as all other legal ways and means in their power, will 
promote and encourage industry and frugality, and discourage 
all manner of luxury and extravagance. 

Secondly, That they will not at any time hereafter, directly or 
indirectly, import, or cause to be imported, any manner of goods, 
merchandise or manufactures, which are, or shall hereafter be 
taxed by act of parliament for the purpose of raising a revenue 
in America (except paper not exceeding eight shillings sterling 
per ream, and except such articles only as orders have been 
already sent for), nor purchase any such after the first day of 
September next, of any person whatsoever, but that they will 
always consider such taxation in every respect as an absolute 
prohibition, and in all future orders direct their correspondents 
to ship them no goods whatever taxed as aforesaid, except as is 
above excepted. 


/\ Thirdly, That the subscribers will not hereafter, directly or 
indirectly, import, or cause to be imported, from Great Britain, 
or any part of Europe (except such articles of the produce or 
manufacture of Ireland as may be immediately and legally 
brought from thence, and except also such goods as orders have 
been already sent for), any of the goods hereinafter enumerated, 
viz., spirits, ;nrine, cider, perry, beer, ale, malt, barley, pease, beef, 
pork, fish, butter, cheese, tallow, candles, oil, fruit, sugar, pickles, 
confectionary, pewter, hoes, axes, watches, clocks, tables, chairs, 
looking-glasses, carriages, joiner's and cabinet work of all sorts, up- 
holstery of all sorts, trinkets and jewelry, plate and gold, and silver- 
smith work of all sorts, ribband and millinery of all sorts, lace of 
all sorts, India goods of all sorts (except spices), silks of all sorts 
{except sewing silk), cambric, lawn, muslin, gauze (except bolting- 
cloths), calico or cotton stuff of more than two shillings per yard, 
woolens, worsted stuffs of all sorts of more than one shilling and 
sixpence per yard, broadcloths of all kinds at more than eight shil- 
lings per yard, narrow cloths of all kinds at more than three shil- 
lings per yard, hats, stockings (plaid and Irish hose excepted)^ 
shoes and boots, saddles, and all manufactures of leather and skins 
of all kinds, until the late acts of parliament imposing duties on 
tea, paper, glass, etc., for the purpose of raising a revenue in 
America are repealed ; and that they will not, after the first of 
September next, purchase any of the above enumerated goods, 
of any person whatsoever, unless the above mentioned acts of 
parliament are repealed. ^ 

Fourthly, That in all orders which any of the subscribers may 
hereafter send to Great Britain, thciy shall and will expressly 
direct their correspondents not to ship them any of the before- 
enumerated goods until the before mentioned acts of parliament 
are repealed ; and if any goods are shipped to them, contrary to 
the tenor of this agreement, they will refuse to take the same, or 
make themselves chargeable therewith. 

Fifthly, That they will not import any slaves, or purchase any 
imported, after the first day of November next, until the said acts 
are repealed. 

Sixthly, That they will not import any wines of any kind 
whatever, or purchase the same from any person whatever, after 
the first day of September next, except such wines as are already 


ordered, until the acts of parliament imposing duties thereon 
are repealed. 

Seventhly, For the better preservation of the breed of sheep^ 
that they will not kill, or suffer to be killed, any lambs that shall 
be yeaned before the first day of May, in any year, nor dispose 
of such to any butcher, or other person whom they may have 
reason to suspect intends to kill the same. 

Eighthly and lastly. That these resolves shall be binding on 
all and each of the subscribers, who do hereby each and every 
person for himself, upon his word and honor, agree that he will 
strictly and firmly adhere to and abide by every article in this 
agreement, from the time of his signing the same, for and during 
the continuance of the before mentioned acts of parliament, or 
until a general meeting of the subscribers, after one month's 
public notice, shall determine otherwise, the second article of this 
agreement still and forever continuing in full power and force. 

Peyton Randolph, Robert Carter Nicholas, Richard Bland, 
Archibald Gary, Richard Henry Lee, Charles Carter, George 
Washington, Carter Braxton, Severn Eyre, Richard Randolph, 
Patrick Henry, junr., Peter Johnston, Henry Lee, Nathaniel 
Terry, Thomas Whiting, Thomas Jefiferson, Thomas Nelson, 
junr., James Walker, John Alexander, Champion Travis, George 
Ball, Thomas Harrison, Thomas Claiborne, John Blair, junr., 
Thomson Mason^ &c., &c., &c.* 


Article of George Mason's left out by the Burgesses. 

Sixth Resolve, 

If the measures already entered into should prove ineffectual^ 
and our grievances and oppressions should notwithstanding be 
continued, then, and in that case, the subscribers will put a stop 
to their exports to Europe of tar, pitch, turpentine, timber, 
lumber, and skins and furs of all sorts, and will endeavor to find 
some other employment for their slaves and other hands than 
cultivating tobacco, which they will entirely leave off making, 
and will enter into such regulations as may be necessary with 
regard to the rents and other tobacco debts. 

> Burk's •• History of Virginia." vol. iii.. p. 345. note. 


Corrections Made in Letter to Washington^ April 2jd, 

Among the enumerated goods, after the articles oil and fruit, 
is added sugar. After millinery of all sorts is added, lace of all 
sorts. After the article of gauze is added (except boulting-cloaths). 

In the fifth Resolve the word slctves in the second line is struck 
out, and the word hereafter is added between the word any 
and the word imported. At the end of the sixth Resolve, after 
tobacco-debts, are added the words, due to them, 

N. B. — The reason of making this last alteration is that kt a 
time when the government endeavored to call everything sedi- 
tious, it might be urged that the subscribers took upon them a 
sort of legislative authority, in declaring they would make regu- 
lations relative to tobacco debts ; now they have an undoubted 
right to make what regulations they please in debts due to them- 
selves as the option will still remain in the debtor. 

(To George Washington, Esq : from G. Mason.) 




In 1676 K. Ch. 2nd gave a Charter " To the Colony of Virginia " 
confirming the antient importation right of 50 acres for every 
person imported into the Colony. This seems to acknowledge 
and confirm the Company's right to the charter to be in the 
Colony after the dissolution of the former. 

See Sect. 4th of the 3rd Charter of James ist, by which har- 
borsy fisheries, &c : &c : &c : are granted to the Company, which 
being of a public nature must plainly inure to the people of the 
Colony, after the dissolution of the Company if this dissolution 
had been legal. — Sed qucere. 

Anno 1606, April 10. — Charter or Letters Patent first granted 
by King James the First to the two companys commonly called 
the London Company and the Plymouth Company for two several 
Colonies to be made in Virginia, and other parts and Territories 
of America along the Sea Coasts between 34 Degrees and 45 
Degrees of North Latitude. 


Sect. IV. — Vizt : To Sir Thomas Gates, Sir George Somers, 
and others called the First or London Company to begin to settle 
and plant the first Colony any where upon the said Coast of Vir- 
ginia or America, between 34 Degrees and 41 Degrees of North 
Latitude ; and granting them all the country &c from the said 
first seat of their settlement or plantation for the space of fifty 
English Miles all along the said Coast, towards the West and 
South West as the Coast lieth ; and for the like space of fifty 
miles all along the said coast, towards the East and North East, 
or towards the North, as the coast lieth : with all the Islands 
within one hundred miles directly over against the said sea- 
coast ; and also all the country from the said fifty miles every 
way on the Sea Coast, directly into the Main Land, for the space 
of one hundred English Miles, and that none other of His 
Majesty's subjects shall plant or inhabit behind, or on the back 
side of them towards the Main Land without the express Licence 
or Consent of the Council of that Colony thereunto in writing 
first had and obtained. 

Sect. V. — And to Sir Thomas Hanham, Raleigh Gilbert and 
others called the second or Plymouth Company to begin to settle 
and plant the second colony anywhere upon the coast of Virginia 
and America between 38 Degrees and 45 Degrees of North Lati- 
tude, and granting them all the country &c from the said first 
seat of their colony or plantation for the like space of fifty miles 
all along the said coast towards the West and Southwest, or tow- 
ards the South, as the coast lieth, and for the like space of fifty 
miles all along the said coast towards the East and North East, 
or towards the North, as the coast lieth, with all the islands 
within one hundred miles directly over against the said sea coast ; 
and also all the country from the said fifty miles every way on 
the sea-coast, directly into the mainland, for the space of one 
hundred miles ; and that none other of His Majesty's subjects 
shall plant or inhabit behind, or on the back side of them towards 
the Main Land, without the express licence of the council of that 
colony in writing thereunto had and obtained. 

Sect. VI. — Provided that the plantation or habitation of such 
of the said Colonies as shall last plant themselves as aforesaid, 
shall not be made within one hundred miles of the other of them 
that first began to make their Plantation as aforesaid. — 


Sect. VII. — Granting and ordaining that each of said Colonies 
shall have a Council which shall govern and direct all matters 
and causes, which shall arise or happen within the same several 
Colonies &c : with many privileges and immunities ; among 
others : — 

Sect. XV. — That all and every the persons being his Majes- 
ty's subjects which shall dwell and inhabit within any or every 
of the said Colonies or Plantations, and every of their children 
which shall happen to be bom within the limits and precincts of 
the said several Colonies and Plantations, shall have and enjoy all 
Liberties, Franchises and Immunities to all Intents and purposes, 
as if they had been abiding and bom within the realm of Eng- 
land or any other of His Majesty's Dominions. ^ 

Sect. XVIII. — And finally that His Majesty, his Heirs and 
Successors, upon petition for that purpose, shall and will by Let- 
ters Patent, under the Great Seal of England, give and grant to 
such persons their heirs and assigns as the respective Councils 
for the said two Colonies, or the most part of them, shall for that 
purpose nominate and assign, all the Lands, Tenements, and 
Hereditaments which shall be within the precincts limited for 
the said two Colonies respectively, as aforesaid, to be holden of 
His Majesty, his Heirs and Successors as of their Manor of 
Greenwich in the county of Kent, in free and common socage 
only, and not in capite. With a clause declaring the full and 
perfect efficacy of such letters patent, so to be granted as afore- 

Sect. VI. Anno 1609, May 23. — The Company for the said first 
or Southern Colony (to this day called the Colony and Dominion 

* In consequence of this charter the first or Southern Colony, which still 
retains the name of Virginia, was undertaken and begun by several persons in 
and about London (Dec. 19, 1606) who fitted out two or three ships under the 
command of Capt. Christopher Newport, which sailed from England to America 
(April 26, 1607). The first land they discovered on this coast was the southern 
point or cape of Chesapeake Bay ; which they called Cape Henry (the name it 
still retains) ; here they first landed and after spending some days in examining 
the country and looking for a proper place for their settlement, they fixed upon 
a peninsula (May 13) about forty miles up Powhatan River (since called James 
River) and on the north side of it, which they called James Town, in compli- 
ment to the King, the name it has ever since retained. At this place the seat 
of Government remained for a great many years, and from this beginning pro- 
ceeded the Colony of Virginia. 


of Virginia) having been joined by a great number of the nobil- 
ity and principal gentry in England, a second and more extensive 
Charter was granted them by King James the first, incorporating 
them by the name of the Treasurer and Company of the Adven- 
turers and Planters of the City of London for the first Colony 
in Virginia : reciting, confirming, explaining and enlarging the 
former Charter by granting them all those lands, Countries^ 
and Territories situate, lying and being in that part of America 
called Virginia, from the point of land called Cape or Point 
Comfort all along the Sea Coast to the northward, two hundred 
miles, and from the said point of Cape Comfort all along the sea- 
coast to the southward, two hundred miles, and all that space or 
circuit of Land, lying from the sea-coast of the precinct afore- 
said, up into the land, throughout from sea to sea, west and north- 
west, and also all the Islands lying within one hundred Miles 
along the Coasts of both seas of the precinct aforesaid ; with all 
the Soils, Grounds, &c. forever ; To be holden of his Majesty^ 
his Heirs and his Successors, as of their Manor of East Green- 
wich ; in free and common socage, and not in capite. 

Sect. VII. — Nevertheless charging, commanding, warranting 
and authorising the said Treasurer and Company to convey 
assign and set over such particular portions of Lands, Tenements, 
and Hereditaments unto such His Majesty's subjects naturally 
born, or Denizens, or others, as well Adventurers as Planters, as 
by the said Company shall be nominated, appointed and allowed ; 
wherein respect to be had as well of the Adventure, as to the 
special service. Hazard, Exploit, or Merit of any person so to be 
recompensed, advanced, or rewarded.* 

* Pursuant to the above last recited clause, Sec. VII., the said Company in 
the year 1616 (Sir George Yeardly being then their Governor in Virginia) 
ordained and ordered that 50 acres of land should be assigned and granted to 
every person removing himself into the said Colony from Great Britain or 
Ireland; and to every person who should import others, 50 acres for every 
person so imported. This was the first Rise of the ancient custom of granting 
lands upon Importation Rights, which is now no less than 158 years old. It 
appears to have been interwoven with the Constitution of the Colony from its 
first settlement, and constantly practised afterwards. In the year 1621 two 
remarkable instances occur. 50,000 acres were granted to one Captn. 
Newce, for the importation of 1,000 persons and sixty young maids, 
being brought over by private adventurers to make wives for the planters^ 


Sect. VIII. — Appointing and ordaining that the said Com- 
pany shall have a perpetual Council residing in England, which 
Council shall have a seal for the better government, and adminis- 
tration of the said plantation, besides the legal seal of the Com- 
pany or Corporation. 

Sects. IX. and X. — Nominating the particular members of 
the said Council, and also the Treasurer for the time being. 

Sect. XI. — And granting and declaring that the said Council 
or Treasurer, or any of them, shall from thenceforth be nominated, 
chosen, continued, displaced, changed, altered, and supplied, as 
Death or other several occasions shall require, out of the Com- 
pany of the said Adventurers, by the voice of the greater number 
of the said Company and Adventurers, in their Assembly for 
that purpose. Provided always that every Counsellor so newly 
elected, shall be presented to the Lord Chancellor of England, or 
to the Lord High Treasurer of England, or to the Lord Cham- 
berlain of the Household of His Majesty, His Heirs and Succes- 
sors for the time being, to take his Oath of a Counsellor to His 
Majesty, his Heirs and Successors for the said Company of 
Adventurers and Colony in Virginia. 

Sect. XIII. — Giving and granting for His Majesty, his Heirs 
and Successors, full power and authority to the said Council, as 
well at the present time, as hereafter from time to time, to nomi- 

50 acres of land for each was granted to the persons who imported them. 
After the Government was taken into the hands of the Crown, upon the dissolu- 
tion of the Virginia Company, the same Right and Custom was always con- 
tinued, as appears from the old patents and records in the Secretary's oifice. 
In the year 1662 an Act of Assembly was made prescribing the manner of 
proving such Importation rights to lands, by obtaining certificates thereof to 
entitle the Claimers to surveys and patents. And in the year 1676 the said 
custom and right was solemnly confirmed and continued, according to the ancient 
usage and practice, by charter from King Charles the Second, to the Colony of 
Virginia, under the great seal of England, which charter was recognised by Act 
of Assembly in the year 1677 prescribing the form of patents- for the future, in 
which form is recited the continuance and confirmation of the said ancient right 
and privilege ; which hath been enjoyed by the subjects of this Colony ever 
since, and great quantities of land from time to time granted accordingly. So 
that Mr. Stith, in his History of Virginia (which is chiefly extracted from ancient 
records), mentioning this right and custom, had good reason for his remark, 
" That this is the ancient, legal, and a most indisputable method of grantiiig 
lands in Virginia.*' 


nate, make, constitute, ordain and confirm, by such name or 
names, stile or stiles, as to them shall seem good, and likewise 
to revoke, discharge, change and alter as well all and singular 
Governors, officers and ministers, which already have been 
made, as also which shall be by them thought fit and needful ta 
be made or used, for the Government of the said Colony and 

Sect. XIV. — And also to make, ordain and establish all 
manners of Orders, Laws, Directions, Instructions, Forms, and 
Ceremonies of Government and Magistracy, fit and necessary 
for and concerning the Government of the said Colony and 
Plantation, and the same to abrogate, revoke, and change, not 
only within the precincts of said Colony, but also upon the seas 
in going and coming to and from the said Colony, as they in their 
good discretion shall think to be fitted for the good of the 
Adventurers and Inhabitants there. 

Sect. XXII. — Declaring also for his Majesty, his Heirs and 
Successors, that all and every the persons, being the subjects of 
his Majesty, his Heirs and Successors, which shall go and inhabit 
within the said Colony and Plantation, and every of their chil- 
dren and posterity which shall happen to be born within any of 
the limits thereof, shall have and enjoy all Liberties, Franchises^ 
and Immunities of free Denizens and natural subjects within any 
of their other Dominions, to all Intents and Purposes as if they 
had been abiding and born within the Realm of England, or 
any other of the Dominions of his Majesty, his Heirs and 

* There can be no doubt but this and every clause relating to the people and 
inhabitants in general (not to the particular property of the Company) under 
the Faith of which our Ancestors left their native land, and adventured to settle 
an unknown country, operates and inures to thebenefitof their posterity forever, 
notwithstanding the dissolution of the Virginia Company, had such dissolution 
been ever so legal. But a new doctrine has been lately broached by the writen 
against America. " That the charters granted to the Colonies were originally 
illegal, as containing powers and rights which the; Crown, being only one 
branch of the Legislature, could not grant, and having never been confirmed by 
Act of Parliament, that they are of course void and of no effect." The first 
assertion happens to he false ; and if it was true, the consequences deduced 
from it are erroneous. When America was discovered, the sending abroad 
colonies had been unknown in Europe from the times of the ancient Greeks and 


Sect. XXIII. — Giving and granting also unto the said Treas- 
urer and Company, and their Successors, and to such Governors, 
Officers and Ministers, as shall be by the aforesaid Council 
constituted and appointed, according to the nature and limits of 
their Offices, and places, respectively, that they may from time to 
time, for ever hereafter, within the said precincts of Virginia, or 
in the way by sea thither, and from thence, have full and absolute 
power and authority to correct, punish, pardon, govern, and rule 
all such the subjects of his Majesty, his Heirs and Successors, as 
shall from time to time adventure themselves in any voyage 
thither, or that shall at any time hereafter inhabit in the precincts 
and territories of the said Colony as aforesaid, according to such 
Orders, Ordinances, Constitutions, Directions, and Instructions, 
as shall by the said Colony, as aforesaid, be established. So 

Romans (for the irruptions of the Goths and other barbarous nations can*t be 
regarded in that light). To the people of Great Britain the scene then opening 
was entirely new ; and altho' the people removing from thence, to settle 
Colonies in America, under the auspices and protection and for the benefit of 
Great Britain, would by the laws of Nature and Nations, have carried with them 
the Constitution of the Country they came from, and consequently been 
entitled to all its advantages, yet not caring to trust altogether to general prin- 
ciples applied to a new subject, and anxious to secure to themselves and their 
posterity, by every means in their power, the rights and privileges of their 
beloved laws and Constitution, they entered into a solemn compact with the 
Crown for that purpose. Under the faith of these compacts, at their own pri- 
vate expense and Harard, amidst a thousand Difficulties and Dangers, our 
Ancestors explored and settled a New World : their posterity have enjoyed 
these rights and privileges from time Immemorial ; and have thereby (even if 
the Charters had been originally defective) acquired a legal Title. It ought to 
wear well ; for it has been dearly earned. King, Lords, and Commons compose 
the British Legislature, but the Constitution has lodged the Executive power in 
the Crown. The Disposition of foreign or newly-acquired Territory hath ever 
belonged to the Executive. This power has been constantly exercised by our 
Kings in numberless instances. At the conclusion of the last war, Martinico, 
Guadaloupe, &c. (tho* acquired at the National Expense), were disposed of by 
the Crown, and however the policy may have been censored, the King's right 
was never disputed. If the Crown can make an absolute and unlimited aliena- 
tion to Foreigners ; a fortiori can it make a modulated Grant to Subjects. The 
American Charters, therefore, are legal ab origine. Equally false and absurd 
is the Idea of Great Britain's Right to govern these Colonies as conquered 
Provinces, for we are the Descendants, not of the Conquered, but of the Con- 


always as the said Statutes, Ordinances, and Proceedings, as 
near as conveniently may be agreeable to the Laws, Statutes, 
Government, and Policy of the Realm of England. 

Sect. XXVI. — Declaring his Majesty's Royal will and pleasure 
that in all questions and doubts that shall arise upon any diffi- 
culty of construction or interpretation of any thing contained 
either in this or in former letters patent, the same shall be taken 
and interpreted in the most beneficial manner for the said 
Treasurer and Company, and their successors, and every member 
thereof. And concluding with the following clause : 

Sect. XXIX. — Any Act, Statute, Ordinance, Provision, Pro- 
clamation or Restraint to the contrary hereof, had, made, 
ordained, or provided, or any other Thing, clause, or matter 
whatsoever, in any wise, notwithstanding. 

Anno 1612, Sect. I. — A third charter was granted by King 
James the first to the same Virginia Company, reciting and con- 
firming their former charters, and setting forth that the said 
Company had petitioned for an enlargement of their former let- 
ters patent ; II. as well for a more ample extent of their Limits 
and Territories into the seas adjoining to, and III. upon the 
Coast of Virginia, as also for some other matters and Articles 
concerning the better Government of the said Company and 
Colony ; in which point the former letters patent do not extend 
so far as Time and Experience hath found to be needful and 

Sect. IV. — Giving, granting and confirming unto the said 
Treasurer and Company and to their Heirs and Successors for- 
ever, all and singular, those Islands whatsoever situate, lying 
and being in any part of the Ocean or Seas bordering upon the 
Coast of the said first Colony of Virginia, and being within 
three hundred leagues of any of the parts heretofore granted to 
the said Treasurer and Company in the former letters patent, 
and being within or between the one and fortieth and thirtieth 
degrees of Northern Latitude, together with all and singular the 
soils, lands. Grounds, Havens, ports. Rivers, Waters, Fishings, 
Mines, and Minerals &c and all and singular other Commodi- 
ties, Jurisdictions, Royalties, privileges. Franchises, and prehemi- 
nences, both within the said Tract of land upon the Main, and 
also within the said Islands and Seas, adjoining, whatsoever and 


thereunto or thereabouts, both by sea and Land, being or situate, 
— To be holden as of the Manor of East Greenwich &c/ 

Sect. VII. — Ordaining and granting that the said Company, 
once every week, or oftener, at their pleasure, might hold a 
Court and Assembly, for the better order and government of the 
said plantation ; to consist of the Treasurer or his Deputy, and 
at least five of the Council and fifteen other Members of the 
Company, which should be a sufficient court for the ordering 
and dispatching all such casual and particular Occurrences and 
Matters of less consequence and weight, as shall from time to 
time happen, concerning the said plantation. 

Sect. VIII. — But that for the ordering and disposing of mat- 
ters and affairs of great weight and importance, and such as 
concern the Publick weal, particularly the manner of Govern- 
ment from time to time, to be used, the ordering and disposing 
of the lands, and the settling and establishing of a Trade, there 
should be held upon four different certain Days (therein named) 
■one great and general Assembly ; which four Assemblies to be 
called and stiled the four Great and General Courts of the 
Council and Company of Adventurers for Virginia, and shall 
have full power and authority, from time to time and at all times 
hereafter, to elect and chuse discreet persons to be of the said 

^ This clause Sect. IV. of this Charter, respecting the ports, rivers, waters, 
and Fishings, and a clause of the same nature in Sect. VI. of the second 
Charter (not particularly suited in these Extracts), being of a publick nature 
in which the people and Inhabitants were interested, as well as the Company, 
it is presumed could not be destroyed or avoided by the Dissolution of the 
Virginia Company, and may avail us if the proprietor of Maryland should ever 
disturb the peace or possession of any of the people of this Colony, by an attempt 
to exercise the Rights he pretends to claim on the South side of the Potomack 
River of which he hath never been in possession ; for upon an attentive exam- 
ination of the Virginia Charters, perhaps it may appear that the said proprietor 
hath little title, except length of possession, to many of the powers he holds. 
How far these Charters can be urged against the claim he is now setting up to 
that tract of country between the great North and South Branches of Potomack 
River, the Inhabitants of which have been long settled there as a part of this 
Colony, under the Faith of its Laws, and are represented In our Legislature, 
and who, if the said proprietor's claim was to be established (besides the 
risque of their present titles to the Lands) would be forced from under the im- 
mediate protection of the crown, and subjected to a proprietary government ; 
whereby their Lives and Fortunes migh be at the mercy, not of their Sot- 
•ereign, but of a fellow Subject, may soon become a question of Importance. 


Council of the said Colony, and to nominate and appoint such 
officers as they shall think fit and requisite for the Government, 
managing, ordering, and dispatching the affairs of the said Com- 
pany, and shall likewise have full power and authority to ordain 
and make such Laws and Ordinances for the good and welfare 
of the said plantation, as to them from time to time shall be 
thought requisite and meet ; so always as the same be not con- 
trary to the Laws and Statutes of the Realm of England. 

Sect. XVI. to Sect. XIX. — Giving and granting to the said 
Treasurer and Company full power and Authority, Liberty, and 
Licence to erect, and publish, open and hold, one or more Lot- 
tery or Lotteries within the City of London, or within any other 
City or town in England, with divers orders for the Regulation 
and Encouragement of such Lottery or Lotteries. 

Sect. XX. — Declaring that in all questions and Doubts, that 
shall arise upon any Difficulty of Construction or Interpretation, 
of anything contained in these or any other of the former 
Letters Patent, the same shall be taken and interpreted in most 
ample an(l beneficial manner for the said Treasurer and Com- 
pany and their Successors and every member thereof. 

Sect. XXI. — And lastly ratifying and confirming unto the 
said Treasurer and Company, and their Successors forever all 
and all manner of privileges. Franchises, Liberties, Immunities, 
Profits and commodities, whatsoever granted unto them in any 
of the former letters patent, and not in these presents revoked, 
altered, changed, or abridged, any Statute, Act, Ordinance, pro- 
vision, proclamation, or Restraint, to the contrary thereof &c. 
notwithstanding. * 

Anno 162 1, July 24th. — ^The Treasurer, Council, & Company 
in England passed and established an Ordinance under the 
Common Seal of the said Company, for settling the Constitution 
and Form of Government in Virginia.' 

* The principal Design of this third Charter, besides making some new 
regulations in the Government of the Company and Colony, and empowering 
them to raise money by Lotteries in England, seems to be to grant to the said 
Company the Islands of Bermudas, otherwise called Somer-Islands, which the 
said Virginia Company, within a few years, sold to Sir George Somers and 
others, called the Somer-Island Company ; which was afterwards dissolved* 
much about the same time and in the same manner with the Virginia Company. 

* This Ordinance was brought over the October following by Sir Francis 
Wyatt (who succeeded Sir George Veardly in the Government here), and is 


Sect. I. — Declaring their motives and Authority for the same, 
and ordaining and declaring, that from II. thenceforward there 
should be two supreme Councils in Virginia for the better gov- 
ernment of the said Colony. The one of which Councils, to be 
called the Council of State (whose office shall chiefly be, assist- 
ing with their care, advice and circumspection, to the Governor), 
shall be nominated, placed and displaced, from time to time, by 
them the said Treasurer, Council, and Company and their suc- 
cessors — nominating for the present, the members of the said 
Council of State, viz.: — Sir Francis Wyatt, the then Governor, 
and nineteen other gentlemen therein named ; earnestly praying 
and desiring, and strictly charging and commanding the said 
Counsellors and Council to bend their Care and Endeavours to 
assist the Governor ; first and principally, in the advancement of 
the Honour and Service of God, and the enlargement of his 
Kingdom amongst the Heathen people ; and next in erecting 
the said Colony in due obedience to His Majesty, and all law- 
ful Authority, from His Majesty's directions ; and lastly in 
maintaining the people in Justice and Christian Conversation 
amongst themselves, and in strength and ability to withstand their 
enemies. And this Council to be always, or for the most part 
to be residing about or near the Governor.^ 

generally presumed to have been the original plan and first Dranght of our 
Constitution, from which the Assembly of Virginia took its rise ; but it was in 
fact rather a confirmation of that form of Government which the people here, 
in Imitation of their Mother Country, had before adopted ; for it appears from 
ancient records, that two years before this, viz.: — in June, 1619, Sir George 
Yeardly held an assembly of the representatives of the people. Counties were 
not yet laid off ; but the several Townships, settlements, or Hundreds elected 
their representatives, from whence the said Assembly was first called the House 
of Burgesses, a name proper to the Representatives of Burroughs or Towns 
(but conveying a diminution and inadequate idea of an Assembly representing 
the whole body of the people), which custom hath very improperly continued 
to this day, altho' all our Representatives, four members only excepted, have 
for a great length of time been chosen by the shires or counties. 

* The powers by this clause vested in the members of the first Virginia 
Council belong properly to a Council of State. But to what an alarming and 
enormous Height hath the Jurisdiction of their successors increased ? In whose 
hands are lodged the Executive, the Legislature, and the Judicative powers of 
the State, and consequently the Life, Liberty, and property of the subject? 
That this hath not yet produced much Evil or Opposition is candidly acknowl- 
edged, because the Council has generally been composed of men whose character, 




Sect. IV. — The other Council more generally to be called by 
the Governor once Yearly, and no oftener, but for very extraor- 
dinary and important occasions, shall consist for the present, of 
the said Council of State, and of two Burgesses out of every 
town, Hundred, or oth^r particular plantation, to be respectively 
chosen by the Inhabitants ; which Council shall be called the 

Interest, and Connections here, have restrained them within the bonds of Mod- 
eration. Because the Emoluments of the office are not a sufficient Temptation 
to Mercenary Strangers to solicit the appointment. And because Luxury, 
venality, and a general corruption of manners have not yet thoroughly taken 
root among us. But when it is considered that this Board is entirely de|)endant 
upon the Crown ; that the authority of its members is not hereditary, and if it was 
that it could descend but to one of their children ; that no man's Rank or Fortune, 
how great soever, can exempt him from the common course of human affairs ; 
and that their own posterity must quickly be distributed among the different 
classes of mankind, and blended with the mass of the people, there cannot be a 
more striking proof of the prevalence of the lust of power in the mind of man 
than that these gentlemen should be tenacious of Jurisdiction as unsafe and dan- 
gerous to their own Families as to the Community. Not only mean and sordid 
but extremely shortsighted and foolish is that species of self-interest which in 
political questions opposeth itself to the publick good ; for a little cool reflection 
must convince a wise man that he can no other way so effectually consult the per- 
manent Interest of his own Family and posterity as by securing the just rights 
and privileges of that society to which they belong. But it is easier to describe 
a Disease in the Body politic, than to point out a proper Physician. Perhaps the 
lenient hand of a wise and patriotic Prince — perhaps some noble and public- 
spirited Governor, who would then indeed deserve a statue. Perhaps the 
Constitution may by degrees work itself clear by its own innate strength, the 
virtue and Resolution of the Community — as hath often been the case in our 
Mother Country. This last is the natural Remedy ; if not counteracted by that 
slow poison, which is daily contaminating the minds and morals of our people. 
Every Gentleman here is a petty tyrant. Practised in Arts of Despotism and 
Cruelty, we become callous to the Dictates of humanity and all the finer feel- 
ings of the Soul. Taught to regard a part of our species in the most abject and 
contemptible Degree below us ; we lose that idea of the dignity of Man, which 
the Hand of Providence has implanted in us for great and wise purposes. 
Habituated from our infancy to trample upon the rights of human nature, every 
generous, every liberal sentiment, if not extinguished, is enfeebled in our minds. 
And in such an infernal school are to be educated our future Legislators and 
Rulers. The laws of Impartial Providence may even by such means as these, 
avenge upon our posterity the injury done a set of wretches whom our injustice 
hath debased almost to a level with the Brute Creation. These Remarks may be 
thought foreign to the design of the annexed Extracts. They were extorted by 
a kind of irresistible perhaps an enthusiastic Impulse, and the Author of them, 
conscious of his own good intentions, cares not whom they please or offend. 


General Assembly, wherein (as also in the said Council of 
State) all matters shall be decided, determined, and ordered by 
the greater part of the voices then present, reserving to the 
Governor always a negative voice. And this General Assembly 
shall have full power to treat, consult, and conclude, as well of 
all emergent occasions, concerning the publick weal of the said 
Colony, and every part thereof, as also to make, ordain, and 
enact such general Laws and orders for the Behalf of the said 
Colony, and the good government thereof, as shall from time to 
time appear necessary or requisite.' 

* It is plain from this clause that the Gentlemen of tlie Council were origi- 
nally no more than so many constant members of the Assembly, without being 
elected by the people ; that they sat with the Governor in the same House, and 
had a common vote in all matters with the Representatives of the people ; that 
a negative was lodged in the Governor alone ; and that the House thus con- 
stituted was called the General Assembly ; the stile yet retained in all our 
legislative proceedings, tho* great alterations have been since made in the 
original Constitution : — In this situation the Council continued long after the 
Virginia Company was dissolved, and the Government of the Colony was vested 
in the crown. In those early times, when the number of the people's represen- 
tatives was small, the influence of the Council in the General Assembly was very 
considerable ; at first, indeed, they made a majority ; but in process of Time, 
as the country became more inhabited. Counties were laid off, and the number 
of our Representatives greatly increased, the vote of the members of the Coun- 
cil was in a manner sunk in such a numerous Assembly ; and the democratical 
part of our Constitution had no other check than the Governor's negative. This 
might be productive of inconvenience, to remedy which the Gentlemen of the 
Council, of their ovrn mere motion, thought proper to walk up stairs ; and 
formed in imitation of the English House of Peers a separate and distinct 
Branch of the Legislature. That such a separate Branch, such an intermediate 
Power between the people and the Crown is really necessary, no candid man, 
well-informed in the principles of the British Constitution, and acquainted with 
the tumultuary nature of Publick Assemblies, will deny ; but he may, with great 
propriety urge, that the members of this Intermediate Branch of the Legislature, 
should have no precarious tenure, that it should at least be for life, and whether 
their Authority was hereditary or not, that they should be equally independent 
of the Crown and of the people ; and that neither the Administration nor the 
common Judicative powers of the State can be safely lodged in their hands. 

As some amendments in our judicial proceedings have lately been proposed, 
it may not be amiss to mark here a Capital Error in the Constitution of our Su- 
preme Courts. When any man thinks himself injured by a Court of Law, or a \ 
Decree of Chancery, the British Constitution hath given him an appeal ; this is \ 
an inherent right in the subject, of which he can't be deprived, without being 
robbed of a valuable part of his Birth-Right, and the most effectual means that 


Sect. V. — Whereas in all other things requiring the said Gen- 
eral Assembly, as well as the said Council of State to imitate 
and follow the policy of the form of Government, Laws, Cus- 
toms, and manner of Trial, and other administration of Justice, 
used in the Realm of England, as near as may be, even as the 
said Treasurer and Company themselves by his Majesty's letters 
patent are required. 

Sect. VI. — Provided that no Law or Ordinance made in the 
said General Assembly shall be, or continue in force and valid- 
ity, unless the same shall be solemnly ratified and confirmed in a 
General Quarter Court of the said Company in England, and so 
ratified, be returned to them under the said Company's seal. It 
being their intent to afford the like measure, also unto the said 
Colony, that after the Government of the said Colony shall once 
have been well framed, and settled accordingly ; which is to be 
done by